It’s been close to a decade since Jakob Dylan’s band The Wallflowers last put out an album and it seems they’ve had plenty to say during that time. Exit Wounds, one of their strongest LPs since 1996’s Bringing Down The Horse, is a stripped-down guitar-forward record that still wraps the music in a solid pop sound (thanks in part to producer Butch Walker, himself one of the last great rock musicians that’s not afraid of sharp pop hooks and catchy songs).
Along with producing, Walker also helped out on guitar, keyboards and percussion, but one of the most compelling guests Dylan brought in was Shelby Lynne, who sings on three of the album’s tracks including the remarkable opener, “Maybe Your Heart’s Not In It No More.”
Considering what most Americans have been through over the past four or so years, Exit Wounds is a rather apt title. “Nobody is the same as they were four years ago,” Dylan said recently. “That, to me, is what Exit Wounds signifies. And it’s not meant to be negative at all. It just means that wherever you’re headed, even if it’s to a better place, you leave people and things behind, and you think about those people and those things and you carry them with you. Those are your exit wounds. And right now, we’re all swimming in them.”
The songs here aren’t an obvious reflection on any specific political or social events, yet there is a weariness to the music and lyrics here that feels pretty aligned with the most recent collective mood in this country, especially on songs like “Move The River” and “I Hear The Ocean (When I Wanna Hear Trains)”. You can hear everything from the constant political divide, the inequities and the isolation of this past year clearly in Dylan’s vocals.
The highlight of the record though comes toward the end on the driving “Who’s That Man Walking ‘Round My Garden,” one of Dylan’s finest moments as a songwriter – a song that’s bound to be a live staple for years to come. And The Wallflowers will have plenty of time to test it out as they embark on a massive U.S. tour putting them on the road this summer and into November.
Photo credit: Yasmin Than