It only takes a small needle to make the pain go away.
No, I’m not talking about a hypodermic needle, but a record needle. There’s a calm sense of euphoria that washes over me when I hear a needle drop delicately on a vinyl record.
At that moment, I can leave the present day and escape briefly into a new world the artist has personally created with his music and lyrics.
In a sense, I’m taking a quick journey into the mind of someone I’ve never met and imagining life through his eyes. It’s akin to personifying the emotions of Joy, Fear and Sadness in the 2015 Pixar animated film, “Inside Out.”
I can picture all three emotions running through Brian Fallon’s head when he sings “Painkillers,” the title track off The Gaslight Anthem frontman’s new solo album, which dropped March 11.
The three-minute track opens with a Fallon chord progression slightly reminiscent of the opening guitars in Fleetwood Mac’s “Save Me” from their 1990 album, “Behind the Mask,” but in a much slower tempo.
The song slowly unravels to tell the story of Fallon watching a mystifying woman across a crowded room. He believes loving the woman temporarily will rid his life of the pain that’s currently plaguing him.
For Fallon, the best “Painkiller” is feeling loved and admired, even if it’s only for a short time:
“And we want love like it was a drug/All we wanted was little relief/And every heart I held in between/They were painkillers to me.”
While Fallon searches for love to dull his pain, I search for new music to ease the tensions and stresses in my life. Hearing Fallon’s words is soothing in a way.
“Painkillers” and the other 11 tracks on his new album cause me to reflect back on my life and the fond memories I have of being a teenager – cruising in cars, sharing music with friends, staying up all night, finding and losing love, smelling grease-stained empty fast food bags and dreaming about my life ahead.
These themes run rampant throughout Fallon’s album and carry over from his best known albums with The Gaslight Anthem, including “The ’59 Sound,” “American Slang” and “Handwritten.”
Fallon started working on his solo album after The Gaslight Anthem announced its hiatus in a July 29 Facebook post.
“We’re all going to do other projects and stay active in some way or another, both in and out of music, but we’d like to step away from the band until we decide what we’d like to do next,” the band wrote.
Despite the band’s hiatus, Fallon is cutting his teeth as a modern day singer-songwriter for Millennials, who will reflect back on “Old White Lincoln,” “American Slang” and “45” two decades from now and wish they were 17 again. You can picture yourself as the protagonist in each Fallon song and swear his memories were actually yours.
While Fallon heavily embodies the heart and soul of Bruce Springsteen and the old school New Jersey rock sound, he’s also a dash of Jackson Browne mixed with James Taylor.
In fact, the “Painkillers” album cover is reminiscent of Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James” album art, which shows a closeup of Taylor dressed in denim. Like Taylor, Fallon is dressed in denim, but he looks away from the camera lost in thought.
While glancing away from the camera, it looks as if he’s wondering when he can take his next “Painkiller.” Toward the end of the song, Fallon sings:
“Use me up/And I’ll be enough/Don’t you love the way I drag you down?/Ain’t that enough for you now?”
Yes, Fallon, it’s enough for me now. Thanks for giving me a small dose of “Painkillers” to forget about my day, even if it’s just for three minutes at time.