The Wallflowers/Exit Wounds/New West
3.5 Out of Five Stars
After nearly a decade of patience and anticipation, The Wallflowers’ fans had reason to wonder if in fact the band would regroup and release a new record. Certainly the group had plenty that they could fall back on, including six previous albums, a pair of Grammys and a recently successful single, “One Headlight,” which made a belated appearance in the Judd Apatow film The King of Staten Island.
However, given the fact that Jakob Dylan has opted to take a solo sojourn apart from the band, one elevated by the prominent role he played in the 2018 high profile documentary, Echo in the Canyon, one had to wonder if his own efforts had proven to be an irresistible urge in need of a full vetting. As it is, this appears, Exit Wounds reveals a more recent incarnation of the band, one that for the most part, shares a tenure that only goes back half a decade. As a result, the sound is leaner, a little less rough around the edges and solidly in sync as well. Shelby Lynne’s backing vocals are heard on three of the tracks, most notably on “Darlin’ Hold On,” which finds her sharing the lead at center stage with Dylan.
Still, as the song titles suggest, Exit Wounds seems to maintain a generally downcast disposition. Songs such as “Maybe Your Heart’s Not In It No More,” “I Hear the Ocean (When I Wanna Hear Trains),” “The Dive Bar In My Heart,” “Wrong End of the Spear,” and “Who’s That Man Walking ‘Round My Garden” hint at some dark despair, a haunting notion that Dylan seems desperate to shake while at the same time, attempting to reach a higher ground. In fact, certain songs do seem to soar—appropriately, “Roots and Wings” as well as the aforementioned “Darlin’ Hold On,” “Move the River” and the tellingly titled “I’ll Let You Down (But Will Not Give You Up)”—suggesting that despite perilous circumstance, he’s still determined to steady his course and, in the process, somehow make things right.
Who’s in charge of this wayward bus, he asks on the latter track. Has everyone fallen asleep at once.
Dylan himself offers a a ready explanation. “I was just also writing during a time when the world felt like it was falling apart,” he’s quoted as saying on Wikipedia. “That changes the way you address even the simplest things, because you have panic in your mind all the time. You have anxiety. And you also have hope. And it’s all in there.”
Even so, Dylan still appears capable of taking command. And with Exit Wounds, the results point to that capable conclusion.
Photo by Yasmin Than