Wallflowers frontman Dylan says new album more collaborative
Jakob Dylan knows there are some that would prefer to hear that making a record was a struggle. Some believe conflict and tension make for better music. Not Dylan.
“People like to hear that there were fights, and they like to hear that it was hard and it was really stressful,” the frontman of the Wallflowers says. “That doesn't make better music. I never bought that rap. That's just garbage. It can, but it doesn't have to be miserable. Why do people have to be miserable to make records? Does that make music any better?”
The latest Wallflowers CD, “Glad All Over,” seems to support Dylan's argument that harmony within a band makes for better albums. It is arguably the best yet from the Wallflowers, as the band shows renewed energy and a willingness to introduce some fresh dimensions into the group's sound.
“This record was done in less than a month,” Dylan says. “You can do it in less time and you can do it in more time. But that was a month that was used really efficiently. It was a lot of work and it was never laborious. It was a very positive month, and everybody was at a creative peak, at a high, and that's what you hope for each time.”
For fans, this strong return to action is very welcome news, considering the group had been on hiatus for nearly seven years, a period during which Dylan stepped out as a solo artist, releasing two CDs and touring behind both releases. The Wallflowers are now touring as the opening act for Eric Clapton, with whom they'll perform on April 6 at Consol Energy Center, Uptown.
That hiatus marked the end of a decade-long run that had seen the Wallflowers achieve considerable success and enabled Dylan to establish his viability and own identity as a songwriter and band leader — something that isn't easy when your father happens to be arguably the greatest songwriter of the rock era, Bob Dylan.
The Wallflowers broke through with its second album, the 1996 release, “Bringing Down the Horse.” With hit songs like “One Headlight,” “6th Avenue Heartache” and “Three Marlenas,” the album went on to sell 4 million copies.
But after that, the group saw its fortunes level off as its next two CDs, “Breach” (2000) and “Red Letter Days” (2003) failed to come even remotely close to the huge success of “Bringing Down The Horse.”
There also were internal issues in the band that led to changes in guitarists and drummers. And while the band made a solid fifth album in 2005's “Rebel, Sweetheart,” Dylan knew it was time for the band to take a break.
“Certainly, after the last record, we got a little complacent,” he says. “Things felt a little stagnant within the group. So that's why it was necessary to do different things.”
When the Wallflowers reconvened, it was with a somewhat-different lineup. Original members Dylan, keyboardist Rami Jaffee and bassist Greg Richling were joined by guitarist Stuart Mathis and drummer Jack Irons (a former member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam.). There also was renewed energy and a more-collaborative approach to the creative process.
“I brought a handful of songs,” Dylan says. “But (collaborating) was part of our intention. … Everybody wanted to be more involved. I wanted a little bit of relief in the writing process.”
Some of the songs that were full-band collaborations are ones that add new wrinkles to the Wallflowers sound.
“Reboot the Mission” intentionally tips its hat to the Clash with its slinky beat and riffy rock sound. (Clash singer/guitarist Joe Strummer is saluted in the lyrics and Clash guitarist Mick Jones appears on the track.) “Have Mercy On Him Now” has a strong element of Motown in its sound, while “Misfits & Lovers” is a chunky and frisky rocker.
Other songs, such as “First One in The Car” and “One Set of Wings,” fall closer to the band's signature rootsy mid-tempo pop sound.
Alan Sculley is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.