The Wallflowers have released their first album in seven years
The band broke through in 1996 with the quadruple-platinum "Bringing Down the Horse"
Frontman Jakob Dylan is the son of Bob Dylan
“Well, if it’s a comeback you want, then get your hands raised,” Jakob Dylan declares on the Wallflowers’ first album in seven years, “Glad All Over.” So should we raise our hands and call the band’s return a comeback? Despite the lyric, Dylan says no.
In New York on Monday morning, fresh off a performance for “Good Morning America” – which he jokingly called “Very Early Morning America” – the Wallflowers frontman said, “It’s not like we were a band that broke up and got back together. We never broke up. We lost the plot a bit, and we needed a break, so we took one. We just needed time to find each other again.”
Plus, it’s good timing, given the coincidental and unrelated release of the movie “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” “It can only be good, right? To have the name Wallflowers out there again?”
The Wallflowers broke through in 1996 with the quadruple-platinum album “Bringing Down the Horse” before going on hiatus in 2007. During their time apart, Dylan recorded two solo albums – “Seeing Things” and “Women and Country” – while keyboardist Rami Jaffee took to the road with the Foo Fighters, giving them time to explore music they couldn’t explore together. Reuniting gave them a new sense of direction, “like a reset button,” Dylan said.
Road-testing the new material this summer by mixing it up with hits such as “6th Avenue Heartache,” “One Headlight” and “The Difference” on a mini-tour has given the band a chance to see how audiences respond or even who that audience is anymore. If Dylan ever used to measure himself against his more famous father, Bob, that’s nothing compared with his previous chart-topping success, which made him a rock star as well as a heartthrob.
“Things have changed since ‘Bringing Down the Horse,’ ” he acknowledged. “MTV brought our music to a lot of kids, and even then, we wondered if we were reaching the right audience. But I’m lucky. I don’t hate our old songs, and I don’t mind playing them. I don’t have that problem.” And with the new songs added, “I don’t think we sound like 1995 or 2002. It sounds like now, but filtered.”
Content with where the band is now, the Wallflowers acknowledge the feeling in the new album title. Rob Thomas claimed recently that the Wallflowers were considering naming the new album “North,” but Matchbox Twenty (orchestrating a comeback of their own?) beat them to it, a claim Dylan laughs about.
“That’s a little bit of a misunderstanding,” he clarified. ” ‘North’ was on a list of about 20 possibilities, but we chose ‘Glad All Over’ for its double meaning.” Plus, “Glad All Over” has been used as titles for songs performed by the Beatles and the Dave Clark Five, so the musical legacy had appeal.
For now, the band – guitarist Stuart Mathis, bassist Greg Richling, new drummer Jack Irons and Jaffee – has enough cleverness to tide them over on “Glad,” which includes such rousing new tracks as “Hospital for Sinners,” “Misfits and Lovers” and “Reboot the Mission,” featuring one of Dylan’s guitar heroes, Mick Jones.
“The Clash left a big impact on me,” Dylan said, “and I feel like we came all this way because of them. I got a Telecaster because of them.”
“Reboot the Mission” even includes a shout-out to Joe Strummer as well as songs paying tribute to ZZ Top. “You probably would be surprised to know I’m a ZZ Top fan,” Dylan said. “But I can’t play like Billy Gibbons.”
Most of album’s other lyrics address love and spirituality, “but no more than before,” Dylan said. “Spirituality and the Bible make for great songwriting. They can’t be beat!”
Yet even the most obvious lyrics shouldn’t be taken too literally, he cautioned. “There’s no real narrative,” Dylan said. “I mean, the lyrics are planned in advance, but they’re not about me, and you won’t know the meaning unless I tell you. And they could mean anything. I could tell you, or you think you know, but I could be making stuff up.”
Dylan doesn’t look down upon fabrication, even the more scandalous form that recently affected his father when journalist Jonah Lehrer was found to have made up quotes from the elder Dylan in his book “Imagine: How Creativity Works” and consequently lost his posts at The New Yorker and Wired. “Why did he have to quit?” the younger Dylan asked. “It’s probably happened before (to Bob Dylan), and I don’t know that he’s necessarily be by bothered by that or expect the guy to resign.”
While Lehrer’s fabrications went against the ethics and standards of his profession, the songwriting community is more open to invention and interpretation. To demonstrate, Dylan took a song from the new album at random – “Constellation Blues” – and came up with a viable interpretation of it on the spot, giving it a cosmic yet nonsensical meaning probably unintended when he wrote it.
“And who’s to say I’m wrong? But I could be lying,” he added, laughing. “But isn’t it strange how it’s become the songwriter’s job to explain the songs? It’s not like three-minute pop songs fall out of the sky, but I think if you have to explain the song, it’s not a good song. And some songs defy explanation. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have ‘Gabba Gabba Hey’ ” from the Ramones song “Pinhead.”
Now that the Wallflowers are over their hiatus, Jaffee’s other group, the aforementioned Foos, are going on theirs, as announced by Dave Grohl while performing in Central Park on Saturday night. But don’t blame the Wallflowers for stealing him back.
“I knew Rami first!” Dylan said. “And he’s been able to manage juggling both bands before. So I hope we’re not the cause.”