Graphics by Ainsley Basic
By Nora Onanian, Web Services Coordinator
Artist: The Wallflowers
Album: Exit Wounds
Favorite Songs: “Roots and Wings,” “Move the River,” Who’s That Man Walking ‘Round My Garden”
For Fans Of: Counting Crows, Tom Petty, Third Eye Blind
The Wallflowers know how to make a return. Around since 1989, the American rock band has released seven studio albums, often spaced several years apart. Their most recent, Exit Wounds, comes nearly a decade after its predecessor.
Exit Wounds traverses the past, present and future; gloomy at times but hopeful at others. The Wallflowers’ comfort in their sound is palpable. Frontman Jakob Dylan’s distinctive gravelly vocals shine. And the band’s often slow, roots-infused instrumentation adds layers of emotion to the poetic lyrics.
THE WALLFLOWERS FIND A BALANCE BETWEEN STAYING TRUE TO THEIR ROOTS AND SPREADING THEIR WINGS
Listening through Exit Wounds, the metaphor built by the lead single “Roots and Wings” seems to capture the essence of the album as a whole. Jakob Dylan came into the music scene with a history and foundation as the son of legendary musician Bob Dylan. But despite people’s expectations, he showed off his own distinct style with the formation of The Wallflowers. In tracks like “Maybe Your Hearts Not In It No More,” and “I Hear The Ocean (When I Wanna Hear Trains),” the Wallflowers’ characteristic rock and folk-infused sound is prevalent.
Yet, there are also moments when they spread their wings and dare to try something new. For example, four of the tracks feature vocals from country singer Shelby Lynne. In an interview, Dylan explained that at first Lynne was asked only to join for the sweet and slow duet “Darlin’ Hold On.” When the recording for that song concluded, he decided to ask her to contribute backing vocals on three other tracks. “Who’s That Man Walking ‘Round My Garden” also stands out from the rest of the songs with its dark and mysterious atmosphere. It is these kinds of risks that I think to be the most rewarding, with most of my favorite tracks coming out of refreshing departures from the status quo.
YEARNINGS FOR CHANGE SCATTERED WITH MOMENTS OF HOPE AND ASSURANCE
Thematically, many of the tracks on Exit Wounds express a sense of discontent. “I wanna change horses I wanna switch lanes” Dylan sings in “I Hear The Ocean (When I Wanna Hear Trains),” yearning for change. Later on in the album, he expresses feeling like “something’s wrong somethings’ near,” and as the title notes, that he’ll end up on “the wrong end of the spear.”
But Exit Wounds isn’t all melancholy. The wistful lyrics eventually give way to moments of hope and assurance. “Move the River,” especially stands out, beginning with its sharp, energetic guitar strums. “There’s no way around it,” Dylan at first sings, staring at a river that seems uncrossable. But he soon instills a sense of hope and power, confidently singing “however you feel about it, we’re gonna move the river.” “I’ll Let You Down (But I Will Not Give You Up)” and “Darlin’ Hold On” offer a similar sense of encouragement.
EXIT WOUNDS CAPTURES LIFE’S COMPLEXITY
When talking about Exit Wounds, Dylan explained that he wrote the album “during a time when the world felt like it was falling apart.” He goes on, “that changes the way you address even the simplest things, because you have panic in your mind all the time. You have anxiety. And you also have hope. And it’s all in there.” Thematically and sonically, Exit Wounds captures this multi-dimensional lens.