Brian Fallon

Painkillers

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The solo debut from the moonshine-voiced Gaslight Anthem frontman, Painkillers sees Brian Fallon holding true to his Jersey punk roots, while establishing himself as a top-tier songwriter in the increasingly crowded pantheon of indie-Americana scenemakers. Always a deft lyricist, with Painkillers, Fallon has proved that he can hold his own with open-road, roots rock bards like Eric Bachmann (Crooked Fingers), Josh Ritter, and Jason Isbell. Spirited, glockenspiel-hammered opener "A Wonderful Life" does little to dispel the oft-cited Springsteen comparisons that have both dogged and helped Fallon throughout the years, but the contemplative title track that follows introduces a more nuanced take on blue collar heartache that, for the most part, extends through to the remaining 11 tracks. Standouts like the lush "Among Other Foolish Things," the fist-pumping "Rosemary," the bonfire stomper "Smoke," and the easy, country-folk closer "Open All Night," deftly balance artistry and last-call desperation. These are lent some real pop gravitas by the clean, but not too pristine production of Butch Walker, who peppers Painkillers with pedal steel guitars and sweet, but not too saccharine harmonies. Elsewhere, Fallon's other muse, Bob Dylan, shines through on the plaintive "Long Drives," and "Downtown Train"-era Tom Waits is evoked on the sleepy "Honey Magnolia," but Painkillers, despite its measured pace, never loses steam. Much like his English counterpart Frank Turner, who fronted the post-hardcore outfit Million Dead before going solo, Fallon has found a way to distill his band's fiery nostalgia into something a little more refined, but no less affecting.

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