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This February, WERS is honoring The Wallflowers Glad All Over as the featured Album of the Month! Where seven years hiatus is the death rattle for most bands, The Wallflowers are just as determined to prove they’re different as ever. “If it’s a comeback you want, get your hands raised,” the infamous Jakob Dylan croons at the top of “Hospital for Sinners”, the opening track of 2012‘s Glad All Over, the group’s first release of this decade. Several months after the release of new single “Reboot the Mission”, the L.A. band that kicked off in the 90’s returned with a bang in an album that’s equal parts fluff and substance for our February Album of the Month.
For those who have heard “Reboot the Mission” in its circulation since last autumn, don’t let the Sandinista!-era beat set the album’s tone for you– Jones’s track certainly grab your attention, but Glad All Over is rooted in the group’s alt-rock sound. Ever since announcing the Wallflowers reboot in late 2011, Dylan has remained firm that Glad All Over is in no way an attempt to recapture the glory of their early success, but a continuation of their sound’s development. For fans of the group, this was completely unprecedented, as The Wallflowers had already done what it looked like their frontman had designed it to accomplish. After the massive popularity of their alt-fueled platinum hit Bringing Down the Horse in 1996, the group joined the ranks of a formidable alternative scene that sold like gangbusters before the turn of the century. A few albums later, the Wallflowers fell silent in favor of Jakob Dylan’s solo acoustic career, confined to the special reunion-tour frequenting, greatest-hits releasing, “Oh, do you remember those guys?” bands.
Even after the well-received Seeing Things and Women and Country, Dylan has unfinished business with the Wallflowers and embarked on their first project since the release of Rebel, Sweetheart in 2005. “I can’t do what I do in the Wallflowers without them. I miss it. I’m happy to put the acoustic guitar down,” Dylan said, and with the addition of new drummer and veteran of the 90’s alt-rock scene Jack Irons, the Wallflowers were saddled up to go. Dylan’s willingness to forsake the acoustic in Glad All Over may have been a bit of an overstatement as we hear more roots, country-rock songs than one would ever expect from the composer of Bringing Down the Horse, but it’s never forced or inaccessible. The Wallflowers, unlike many of the peers in their genre, are a group that has aged gracefully in sound and style.
Jones shines in “Reboot the Mission” and “Misfits and Lovers”, but the true standout tracks of the album are ones that feature the group’s main members. “Love is a Country” and “It Won’t Be Long (Till We’re Not Wrong Anymore)” are the prime examples of this, and coincidentally the songs that sound the least like the Wallflowers we’re used to. “There are things I wanna hear, and they don’t begin with the letter ‘i’,” Dylan croons at the top of “It Won’t Be Long”, launching into an anthem on the excitement of togetherness, backed by bandmate Rami Jaffi’s solid vocal and guitar harmonies. “Love is a Country” blends a solid rock drumbeat with earnest acoustics to produce a statement on the country, a place presenting constant dangers and the strength to face it with an honest perspective.
Though it would be easy for Dylan’s vocals to take control of the album, his fellow Wallflowers rise to the occasion in a big way. Irons proves himself a formidable drummer on “Misfits and Lovers” and gets his own self-referential callout in the album’s leading track (“He played with the mighty Joe Strummer”). Rami Jaffee and Greg Richling hold their own and serve as the counterparts keeping their frontman in the rock frame of mind. Dylan, at forty-three, has adapted to a less rough vocal pattern after over six years of working solo, but his bandmates remain determined to keep the forward momentum a priority– this is clear in the album’s closing track and thesis statement, “One Set of Wings”. It’s audible that, new style or not, the band is happy to be producing new material and isn’t afraid of releasing something that isn’t what made them famous, a notorious mistake of the “reunited” concept 90’s bands have adapted in this decade. We’re looking at you, Backstreet Boys.
The Wallflowers aren’t reinventing their sound from the bottom up, but it’s fresh and interesting– in fact, “Reboot” is the perfect descriptor for this release. Whether you’re blasting it in the car or just love the voice of a Dylan, Glad All Over is certainly not false advertising.