Wallflowers Uneven on New Record
After seven silent years, the Wallflowers have finally sprouted from their hiatus with their new record Glad All Over.
Sprinkled with moments of punchy hooks and foot-thumping fun, the album often shows why the band has been so successful over the past two decades. However, too many tracks feel like leftover, out-of-place B-sides, leaving the album frustratingly uneven.
The reunion of the band has been a long time coming. Thankfully, however, it was inevitable, according to front man Jakob Dylan (yes, son of Bob).
“I always wanted to [reform the band],” Dylan told Rolling Stone magazine last November, “I can’t do what I do in the Wallflowers without them. I miss it.”
Led by the breathy voice of Dylan, Glad All Over has multiple memorable melodies that rival some of the band’s biggest hits. “Love is a Country,” the album’s highlight, is a plaintive reflection of lost love with a beautiful airy melody. An infectious energy permeates throughout the whole song.
Dylan has long moved out of the shadow of his father both musically and lyrically.
“The hardships of marching, they’ve only just begun,” Dylan grieves, “Love is a country better crossed when you’re young.” Such poignant vocals make this track a classic.
The atmospheric “Constellation Blues” rides a light but powerful two-chord progression. Floating guitar notes gently drift like clouds before softly dissipating.
“You can tell a few things about the soul of a town,” Dylan says, “from the blood of the men gone in the ground.” The band’s sound has rarely melded together so tightly.
“First One in the Car” rides a harmonious wave of restrained force that rises and falls. Soft organ, common in past Wallflower hits like “One Headlight,” adds a sense of delicacy.
“You’re changing your clothes / In the backseat you slip / From a girl to a woman / In less than a minute,” Dylan sings gruffly.
The band has always been at its best with this smoother, soulful sound. Unfortunately, Dylan frequently leads his bandmates full steam ahead into more raucous songs that do little but scream “filler.”
Rollicking tracks like “Have Mercy on Him Now” and “It Won’t Be Long (Till We’re Not Wrong Anymore)” lack melodic flow and replay value. Soon, such brash and unimaginative songs begin to sound too much like each other. At times, the band sounds more like an undisciplined garage band that doesn’t know when to turn down their volume.
“The Devil’s Waltz” is jarring with its clunky drums and lonely notes from a jerky guitar.
The song’s thin, laboring sound makes one question if audio layers of instruments were accidently left off of the mix. If any song deserves to be skipped over, this is it.
Other songs’ styles do not mesh with the album’s general feel at all. “Misfits and Lovers” and “Reboot the Mission” both feature ex-Clash musician Mick Jones. “Welcome Jack [Irons], the new drummer,” Dylan sings, “He jammed with the mighty Joe Strummer,” frontman of the Clash.
Some fans will surely appreciate the Wallflowers stretching their roots into other genres. This unexpected punk-influence does bring a fresh sound to the band’s consistent rock style.
However, juxtaposed with the surrounding tracks, such a stylistic experiment fits in awkwardly with the album’s general feel.
Despite these frequent faults, listeners should not be scared away. Glad All Over still remains a respectable album and well worth a listen. Besides “The Devil’s Waltz,” it is difficult to call any of the eleven songs truly bad. However, the seasoned Wallflowers are very capable of a much more cohesive and memorable album than this.
Perhaps the band needs more time to shake off the dust accumulated from such a long hiatus. Nevertheless, while the record only flirts with greatness, Wallflower fans should be glad all over that the band’s catalog continues to grow.
— By Chris Ziegler