A new Wallflowers album is always a welcome sight, in my eyes. Admittedly, I was concerned that it wouldn’t be all that different than Jakob Dylan’s solo stuff of late (I had a similar concern about the solo stuff sounding too much like Wallflowers stuff, a problem which was essentially a non-starter when I finally heard it). So I came in with some concern: this is a very different band than the one that kicked off with the self-titled Wallflowers debut 20 years ago, but it also seems like a different band than the one that put out Rebel, Sweetheart in 2005.
This time around, the Wallflowers have a more muscular, rougher edge to their work than in their past few records. There’s an edginess to their efforts here, and much of the smooth guitar and organ work from records like Red Letter Days and Rebel, Sweetheart are gone. It feels like an organic growth, though, not a conscious effort to diverge from the past. This feels like a tougher rock record, and it feels earned. There are very few (what I’d think of as) typical Wallflowers songs on this record. “First One in the Car” feels the most Wallflowers-y, and while it’s not a bad song, it doesn’t really do much that they haven’t done before. But album opener “Hospital for Sinners” doesn’t really sound much like anything they’ve done before. Nor does first single “Reboot the Mission,” which to my ears has a definite Clash-circa-Sandinista feel to it, and that ain’t a bad thing. “Misfits and Lovers,” one of two songs to feature Mick Jones on guitar, is a standout track, with propulsive rhythms and a catchy hook. “The Devil’s Waltz” is a clever tune, and while “Constellation Blues” drags a bit, it’s an interesting examination of the life of a soldier.
Honestly, there’s not a bad song on the record, which makes me quite happy. It was one of those that I immediately restarted as soon as I got to the end of it, and what higher praise is there, really?