Any New Jersey-born musician who grinds out tunes about classic cars, lonely hearts and shuttered factories has to expect the Bruce Springsteen comparisons to come fast and furious. Just ask Brian Fallon.
The Garden State native and founding member of the currently on-indefinite-hiatus Gaslight Anthem has been lauded for awakening early Boss echoes since bursting into regular rotation with Gaslight’s sophomore effort, “The 59 Sound” in 2008. Dealing out doses of runaway rock colored with working-class Jersey imagery and use of the name “Mary,” the connection was understandable — even if, Fallon said, the work doesn’t share the same state of grace.
“I don’t think [the comparisons] are ever going to go away for anyone that comes from here and does what I do,” said the singer/songwriter, reached in New Jersey by phone last week. “Sonically, there are a lot of differences. I know that because I’ve studied what he does so well, and I’ve noticed [the differences] out of frustration of not being able to achieve it.”
But with the spring release and accompanying tour of his first solo album, “Painkillers,” Fallon — who performs June 25 in the Town Ballroom (681 Main St.) with his current band, the Crowes — has shown what kind of inspired material such reverential frustration can produce. More multigenre and malleable than the straightforward, racing-for-pinks style of Gaslight — yet still full of the characters and commonalities prevalent in his northwest Jersey hometown of Hackettstown—“Painkillers” reveals an artist growing up, yet still informed by the identity earned through address.
“I come from a pretty regular place. Your definition of ‘the common man’ would be found here. Go around Buffalo and you’ll probably find the same thing,” said Fallon. “And I guess the people I’m speaking to [with this music] are the kind I relate to.”
To speak to these types of familiar listeners, Fallon’s revealed a deeper arsenal than was ever exposed throughout full-throttle Gaslight albums like “American Slang” or moments of obvious E Street inspiration.
Yes, listeners will hear hints of both on the repetitious chants of “Rosemary” or the uplifting “A Wonderful Life,” with its Christmas bells and percussion suited for outtakes of Springsteen’s “The River.” But weaved around these familiar offerings are jangling roots rockers and tender confessionals suited to stand aside the work of contemporaries like Ryan Adams or Jason Isbell, as well as emblematic of an artist aging into his mid-30s.
“When you’re 25 or 26, you have this aggressive, I’m-gonna-show-you attitude, and I don’t really have that feeling anymore,” Fallon said. “I just kind of want to tell my stories, sing the songs and communicate a feeling. It’s more about communication now, and I think that has more to do with just growing up into the position I feel I’m in now.”
Fallon said this communication has connected with audiences on his current tour. Whether in the name of familiarization or genuine appreciation, fans have been taking a listening stance, rather than devolving into the standard moshing that colored Fallon’s last Gaslight Anthem shows. Young and older, they’re connecting to songs about long drives, broken hearts and smoke we try to hold. They’re bonding with a voice that’s veering into a more diversified direction, but not without the fire that initially endeared him to listeners.
Will the new material do anything to extinguish similarities between the performer and his state’s Fender-strumming standard-bearer? Probably not — which gives Fallon something to strive toward.
“I don’t mind it,” he said. “But you know what would be awesome? If I could ever achieve something that people felt was as good as [Springsteen’s work]. That’s a lofty goal, but why not? Let’s shoot big.”
Who: Brian Fallon and the Crowes
When: 7:30 p.m. June 25
Where: Town Ballroom, 681 Main St.
Tickets: $23 advance, $27 day-of show