With Sleepwalkers, the key thing to be said is that Brian Fallon has finally made an album that sounds like Brian Fallon. While influences of Springsteen, The Clash, the Dire Straits and others will always be a part of Fallon’s DNA, for most of the new album, the songs aren’t attempts to be those artists. This is Fallon coming into his own and finally earning his own true voice.
First single “Forget Me Not”, much like “A Wonderful Life” from his previous record, is a slow grower; enjoyable on first listen, with handclaps and punk screams, but it slowly creeps into your consciousness until you find yourself humming the song as you go about your day and realize you can’t get it out of your head. Fallon has a knack for writing songs like these which are subtly pop, buried underneath layers of rock nostalgia. The same goes for “If Your Prayers Don’t Get to Heaven”, a snappy and upbeat number seeped in a classic doo-wop swing that is the perfect mix of old and new sounds that characterize Fallon so well.
“Come Wander With Me” opens with an 80’s sounding drum track, and Police-esque ska guitars, before warming up with a heart-tugging chorus, “Oh you, you always said, you’re just too good a ship to wreck”. It’s a darker tune that recalls Fallon’s Horrible Crowes project, but the howling bridge reignites the song with a punk rock spirit that elevates it to the next level. The beautiful and dreamy “Etta James” is practically a power ballad without the guitar solos, finding Fallon sounding truly at peace singing “My love is in my arms”.
There isn’t a bad song on the album, though one or two tracks don’t leave a strong impression. “Her Majesty’s Service” returns to Fallon’s lyrical interest in queens (“Queen of Lower Chelsea” from Gaslight’s American Slang album is one of his classics), but doesn’t connect emotionally on any strong level. The acoustic guitars are pleasant enough, and it’s plenty easy to sing along to, but doesn’t reach for any new peaks. The title track brings in some jazzy brass to strong effect, but is the only song that still finds Fallon gasping at Springsteen with the E Street Band than settling into his own style.
These are minor criticism for what remains a truly great record. From the rockers like “My Name is The Night (Color Me Black)” to the tear-jerking acoustic “See You On the Other Side”, Fallon’s songwriting is in top form.
Every reviewer of the album has had a different stand-out track, and for me, that song is “Watson”. From the mournful slide guitar to Fallon’s ending cries of “hold on Watson”, Fallon utilizes the detective metaphor and London imagery to a powerful effect as he pleas for a lover not to leave him. It’s all of his strengths coming together, along with a few new tricks, which is what makes Sleepwalkers such a fine album all around. It’s a songwriter synthesizing all his influences while also pushing himself in new directions; and throughout, not losing sight of the voice that has gotten him this far.