REVIEW: BRIAN FALLON – SLEEPWAKERS (2018)

Effortless stuff from the king of cool 

“I was thinking how every song doesn’t have to be so serious It can just be fun. It can just be a song that I would want to play live. ‘Forget Me Not’ came out in just a couple of minutes and actually ended up being pretty serious – it seems my subconscious had other plans.”

So said Brian Fallon when talking about his new record, “Sleepwalkers”. He seems almost apologetic, but when you listen to the track he’s talking about, you understand just how gifted he is. How effortless he can make writing brilliant songs.

Whatever “Sleepwalkers” does, and wherever it goes, two things are true: first they all have massive choruses and they all could only have come from Fallon, that’s not out of any desire to make a big hit, rather because it’s the only way he knows.

Before the aforementioned first single, which is the second song here, there is a prime example of what Fallon circa 2018 is all about “If Your Prayers Don’t Get To Heaven” is soul tinged rock n roll. As timeless as the salt from the Pier in Asbury Park, it doesn’t sound like a record that came out in 2018, it’s not trying to be. It’s Fallon at the top of his very considerable game.

“Forget Me Not” is everything he said it would be – and it will sound incredible live, not to mention having singalong properties for the ages, and even though “Come Wander With Me” is a change of pace it is choc a bloc with clever lyrics, the line “my mama was a woman and a hard working man” seems to be more personal than many,” and is destined to be a real favourite.

It’s just that everywhere you look here, there’s one for the highlights reel. The brooding “Etta James” finds joy in the idea that “for most of my sad life I figured I was gonna die alone” and the thought that he’s searching for something is right to the fore on “Her Majesty’s Pleasure” which sounds like Counting Crows at their best even before it uses the line about being in “the service of a queen” that Adam Duritz’s men had on “Rain King.”

“Proof Of Life” finds a bit of happiness, indeed, its country flavours are positively sun-dappled, and the fact he writes songs that are steeped in an appreciation of the classics, but are not like anyone else, is never better shown than on “Little Monsters”. There are hints of the greats here, but the melodies are his alone.

It is interesting, perhaps, that the title track has what has become known a the “Jersey Sound” at its core. A carefree skip down the boardwalk. One you can imagine Southside Johnny might have done too, proving, that metaphorically at least, his New Jersey home is where the heart is.

With its strident guitar line, “My Name Is The Night” is just brilliant rock music, and wouldn’t have been out-of-place on the Gaslight Anthem’s seminal “59 Sound” album.

Not that this is some rehash of past glories. The organ and falsetto vocals of “Neptune” show an artist that revels in challenging himself, while “Watson” with all its imagery of London recalls The Kinks and the acoustic and stripped down “See You On The Other Side” takes things into a an Americana type area, and perhaps hint at the fact that in contrast to the quote we used at the start of this, that Fallon might just have found peace.

This summer it will be 10 years since “The 59 Sound” came out. That remains one of the great albums, but these 12 songs are not the sound of an artist that wants to rest on any laurels. Instead, like his solo debut from a couple of years ago, “Sleepwalkers” is the work of a man who still has much to accomplish and has the talent to do it. It is the voice of one of the finest songwriters of his generation.

Rating 9/10