Brian Fallon, who is also the lead singer of The Gaslight Anthem, creates an album of melancholy and glimpses of hope in his sophomore solo release, Sleepwalkers. Fallon’s raspy vocal delivery is reminiscent of another New Jersey rock artist, Bruce Springsteen. As a solo artist, he can get to a more personal place on an album rather than speaking for an entire band. He reveals struggles using repeated imagery of burns, scars, and the heavens, several times mentioning his loving mother and the father he never knew.
The album begins with “If Your Prayers Don’t Get to Heaven,” a powerful song of walking alongside someone who is struggling to find hope. Fallon sings of the desire to run away from these dark feelings but not wanting to leave without having the person he loves beside him. It’s a song of the struggle to be present and the desire to find a place of hope again.
Next comes “Forget Me Not,” a fast rock tune where comparisons to Bruce Springsteen begin to appear. Despite its frenetic pace, the song has a somber tone as it questions whether a lover will remember a partner when the partner is gone, using vivid imagery of graveside mourning.
“Come Wander with Me” explores what so many children experience when one parent is absent as the protagonist battles feelings of unworthiness and abandonment. The narrator attempts to offer hope but the protagonist continues to struggle. “But I found out time and work don't make you a man/Because time didn't teach me anything, and the working only broke my hands.”
Each of the next few tracks introduce new themes and interesting musical elements. “Etta James,” named after an American singer who had a challenging life and exceptional music career, drips with sorrowful emotion. The song’s dynamics and imagery are effective. “Her Majesty’s Service” combines the B3 Hammond organ and acoustic guitar masterfully. Exploring love that isn’t quite working out, the singer laments: “Don't you understand, I know what it's like to be a rolling stone?" Allusions to Bob Dylan don’t stop there—“Proof of Life” conjures Dylan with its tonal twang, again singing about loss.
Deep into the album comes the title track, “Sleepwalkers,” which includes new musical elements of horns and a swing beat. “Sleepwalkers” is a melancholy song telling his mom about meeting someone special in a dream. This fantasy person is someone special and makes his life so much better, even though he know this person will always be a fantasy.
The final song on Sleepwalkers entitled “See You on the Other Side” features only an acoustic guitar, leaving the words to draw you in. Fallon leaves it ambiguous as to who exactly he is singing to, though there are allusions to crossing the Jordan and meeting someone in the afterlife. Despite this vagueness, there is a clear message of faith in that which lasts.
Brian Fallon delivers an archetypal rock album with relatable themes, interesting song structures, and an authentic, raspy rock voice. There are glimpses of hope for the future and of his underlying Christian faith, but also an understanding of present brokenness. This balance can be helpful to many listeners who may be seeking out art that relates to their life situation. (Island)