First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2005, Volume 12, #5
Written by John Metzger
Success can be fleeting, sometimes frustratingly so. Just ask The Wallflowers. After riding MTV’s mid-’90s, alt-rock craze to the top of the commercial heap and receiving widespread recognition for the sturdy construction of its sophomore effort Bringing Down the Horse, the outfit’s subsequent (and better) album Breach was virtually ignored by everyone. With its confidence understandably shaken and shattered, the band appeared to retreat on the tentative Red Letter Days, leaving many to wonder if the ensemble merely was trying to recollect its thoughts or if it simply had run out of steam.
The Wallflowers latest offering Rebel, Sweetheart, however, is a welcome return to form. Recorded rapidly, just after the completion of a tour and under the guidance of fabled producer Brendan O’Brien, the effort essentially merges the tight-knit urgency of the band’s stage show with the variegated textures of its studio endeavors. Although the group shamelessly continues to echo in its work the late ’70s, classic rock styles of Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Tom Petty, John Mellencamp, and Jackson Browne, the album’s rough and tumble edginess combined with the recent resurgence of garage-infused bombast ought to be enough to put The Wallflowers back on the map. Mixing tales of unsettled relationships with an undercurrent of political anger, the outing certainly packs more of a multilayered punch than most similarly minded affairs — though it buries its darker hues beneath its infectiously uplifting melodic structures and allows the shadows to shade the surface of its songs only on occasion. While Breach, for now, undoubtedly will retain its title as the pinnacle of The Wallflowers’ 15-year career, Rebel, Sweetheart provides proof that good, old-fashioned rock ’n‘ roll not only won’t ever die, but that it also is frequently far more timeless than the usual array of trend-chasing side treks put forth by ensembles that are trying to stage a comeback. ½
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box