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Music / The Wallflowers

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The band Rebel, Sweetheart Era

"Come on try a little
Nothing is forever
Got to be something better than in the middle
Me and Cinderella
We put it all together
We can drive it home
With one headlight"

A Blues Rock/ Alternative Rock band formed in 1989. It consists of Jakob Dylan (lead vocals, lead guitar), Fred Eltringham (drums), Greg Richling (Bass guitar), Stuart Mathis (Lead guitar), Rami Jaffee (keyboards). There also used to be a slew of musicians that used to be part of the band.

Jakob Dylan, being the son of Bob Dylan, started the band in 1989. Looking to write classic Blues Rock with a modern edge to it, the band worked hard on songwriting for their first 3 years. Their self titled album was released in 1992, and went largely ignored at the time of its release due to the rise of grunge. The album was also met with lukewarm reviews, most critics saying that Jakob was trying to be too much like his father.

They spent the next year trying to support the album, but Jakob's refusal to advertise himself as Bob Dylan's son and Virgin Records' failure to properly promote the album caused the band to have a fallout. They left Virgin and dropped most of the original lineup and signed to Interscope Records for their second album Bringing Down the Horse. This time, the band focused on a more edgy sound, straying away from the casual roots-rock formulas on their first album. This time, it was a commercial success. It went 4x platinum, and the songs "One Headlight" and "6th Avenue Heartache" were both chart toppers. The critical response was also MUCH more welcoming, with most publications giving the album a near-perfect rating.

They took a short break and then started recording again. They contributed a David Bowie cover with the song "Heroes" to the 1998 American Godzilla movie, that earned them a Grammy. They released (Breach) in 2000 to even more critical acclaim. This is often considered to be their best work, but it was mostly a commercial flop. Allmusic critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine theorises that this may have been due to the release of OK Computer in 1997 and the influence of Trip Hop outfits like Massive Attack and Portishead; the straight-ahead rock music the Wallflowers performed was now considered distinctly unhip. Many of the band's influences, including R.E.M. and U2, and contemporaries, including Oasis, felt it was necessary to experiment with Electronic Music during this time period, regardless of how ill-suited it was for their sound, but the Wallflowers stuck to their guns and kept performing rock and roll.

Desperate for another hit, the band didn't take long to record their third album, Red Letter Days. Released in 2002, the album became an indie hit, but failed to chart high. The critical reception was also diminished, once again receiving lukewarm reviews (the album's glossier production tended to be a point of criticism).

Then in 2005, they released Rebel, Sweetheart to more positive reviews, but even poorer sales. Exhausted, the band went on hiatus for six years. During this time, Jakob Dylan pursued a mostly successful solo career, releasing the folk-influenced Seeing Things and the alternative country album Women + Country to critical acclaim. They reunited in November 2011, and released their sixth studio album, Glad All Over, in September 2012, once again to critical acclaim. They have toured extensively since then.


  • The Wallflowers (1992)
  • Bringing Down the Horse (1996)
  • (Breach) (2000)
  • Red Letter Days (2002)
  • Rebel, Sweetheart (2005)
  • Collected: 1996–2005 (2009)
  • Glad All Over (2012)
  • Exit Wounds (2021)

Jakob Dylan solo albums:

  • Seeing Things (2008)
  • Women + Country (2010)

The band has its own webpage, which can be found here.

"Bringing Down the Tropes":

  • Artifact Title: Originally it was going to be on the album of the same name but due to meddling it was dropped.
  • Auto Erotica: Implied in "First One in the Car".
  • Country Music: An influence on "I Wish I Felt Nothing", and Dylan's solo album Women + Country is a full-fledged alternative country album.
  • Cover Version: "I Started a Joke" by The Bee Gees, which appeared on the Zoolander soundtrack; "Heroes" by David Bowie, for Godzilla (1998); Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic", for American Wedding; "I'm Looking Through You" by The Beatles for i am sam; "Lawyers, Guns and Money" for the Warren Zevon tribute album Enjoy Every Sandwich.
  • Death by Despair: "One Headlight" in which the singer's friend dies of a "broken heart disease."
  • Epic Rocking: Mostly on the self-titled album where several songs qualify ("Honeybee" is 9:14, "After the Black Bird Sings" is 8:26, "Hollywood" is 7:02, "Another One in the Dark" is 6:31). After that, apart from bonus tracks or songs including hidden tracks, they only have one song that tops the six-minute mark, "From the Bottom of My Heart" on Rebel, Sweetheart. (A live version of "Invisible City" on some versions of (Breach) reaches 6:29, and "Birdcage" and "Babybird" are indexed as a single track which reaches 7:42, but they are two separate songs.)
  • Greatest Hits Album: Collected: 1996–2005, a greatest hits album that completely ignored their first self titled album on Virgin Records
  • Hidden Track: "Babybird" follows "Birdcage" on (Breach), and "Empire in My Mind" is indexed as a separate, unlisted track on Red Letter Days.
  • Loudness War: As far as this trope is concerned, their discography is fairly illustrative of general trends in the record industry. The self-titled (1992) gets DR12; Bringing Down the Horse (1996), DR9; (Breach) (2000), DR8; Red Letter Days (2002), DR6; Rebel, Sweetheart (2005), DR7; Glad All Over (2012), DR6. All of their albums after the first one are also noticeably clipped. Dylan's solo career also hasn't been immune, with Seeing Things (2008) getting DR9 and Women + Country (2010) DR6. Both are also clipped, although it's not too noticeable on Seeing Things, and DR9 is pretty good by contemporary standards (particularly given that Rick Rubin, a notorious loudness war criminal, produced it).
  • Nepotism: Averted. As mentioned above, Jakob refused to be marketed at the son of Bob Dylan, even though it was common knowledge at that point, and wanted the band to be successful on its own merits. It cost them a great deal of advertising at first.
  • New Sound Album: Bringing Down the Horse had a harder-edged Alternative Rock sound than the self-titled debut and toned down some of the roots rock influence (though it's still present on about half of the songs). They haven't changed their style too much since then; the main thing to change from album to album has been the production style. (Breach) was given a fairly straight-ahead production with few frills, while Red Letter Days was given a glossier, more modern sheen. Rebel, Sweetheart was given a harder-edged, more textured production by Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam producer Brendan O'Brien. Glad All Over sees the band experiment somewhat more with its sound, delving probably as close into Genre Roulette territory as one can get while still playing rock and roll.
  • Record Producer: They've had several, the most famous of whom are probably T Bone Burnett for Bringing Down the Horse (as well as Dylan's solo album Women + Country) and Brendan O'Brien for Rebel, Sweetheart. Rick Rubin produced Dylan's solo album Seeing Things.
  • Repurposed Pop Song: As of 2014, "One Headlight" is being used for Geico motorcycle insurance.
  • Self-Titled Album: Their debut.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Sleepwalker" refers to Sam Cooke by name, as well as his song "Cupid". "Reboot the Mission" mentions Joe Strummer by name and alludes to the fact that Mick Jones, who provides guest vocals and guitar on the track, used to play with him.
    • "One Headlight" mentions Cinderella.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Women + Country has backing female vocals, contrasting with Dylan's more rough-edged voice.
  • Special Guest: Among others, Adam Duritz of Counting Crows on "Sixth Avenue Heartache", Frank Black of Pixies on "Letters from the Wasteland", Elvis Costello on "Murder 101", and Mick Jones of The Clash on two tracks from Glad All Over. Neko Case, meanwhile, provides backing vocals on Dylan's solo album Women + Country.
  • Titled After the Song: They're named for an obscure Bob Dylan B-side. Glad All Over shares its name with a song by the Dave Clark Five.
  • Tsundere: defined perfectly in "See You When I Get There" from Red Letter Days as "sometimes you're an angel but you're usually a pain in the ass".
  • Uncommon Time: "Love Is a Country", the second single from Glad All Over, drops a beat in the first measure of each verse, giving us an example of 3+4+4+4/4 (or 15/4).