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Rebel, Sweetheart (UK Only Version)

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Album Review

The Wallflowers, particularly their leader, Jakob Dylan, can't catch a break. They're not only bound to be compared — not entirely fairly but certainly understandably — to Jakob's father, Bob, but an equally large burden is that they're a straight-ahead rock band in a time that doesn't value straight-ahead rock bands. They were able to ride the post-alternative wave to the top of the charts in the mid-'90s, when all guitar bands were lumped into a nebulous alt-rock scene, but just a few years later, in the aftermath of trip-hop, MTV Amp, and OK Computer, all big rock bands were expected to tackle the serious challenge of electronica, since that was the wave of the future and all. Didn't matter if they were groups as singularly unequipped to fuse loops and guitars as R.E.M. or Oasis — they all made tentative attempts to reconcile classicist rock with futurist electronica. Not the Wallflowers. They stuck to their guns and made driving, songwriter-oriented rock & roll in the vein of Springsteen, Tom Petty, and John Mellencamp. This stubbornness served their music well, but it won them no new fans, either among critics or the general public, who criticized them for being what they are: a working rock band, pure and simple. On each record, they have variations on their signature sound, given a slightly different spin depending on what producers they work with, but that's what most rock bands, good or bad, do — they make records and go on tour. This happened more in the '70s and '80s than in the '90s and 2000s, when dwindling audiences and corporatization kept bands off the road and out of the studio for long stretches of time, but the Wallflowers remain a rock band in the traditional sense, mining a similar vein on Rebel, Sweetheart, their fifth album, as they did on their first. While there are no musical surprises here, this is a better album than its predecessor, Red Letter Days, not just because it's a stronger, more varied set of songs, but because they finally have a perfectly matched producer in Brendan O'Brien. Like his recent productions for Bruce Springsteen, O'Brien helps focus and revitalize the Wallflowers, opening up the music through subtly textured overdubs but also giving the band a harder attack than they've ever had. Simply put, they've never sounded better as a band than they do here, and they've never had a record as robust and interesting on a pure sonic level as they do here. Not that Rebel, Sweetheart offers anything all that different from previous Wallflowers albums — they just do what they do better than they have before. Ultimately, there's a certain comfort in knowing that the Wallflowers can deliver sturdy, engaging classicist rock like this, since it makes them different from other rock bands of their time in yet another way: they're reliable.

Customer Reviews

The latest not the greatest

Rebel, Sweetheart isn’t the greatest wallflowers album ever. I wouldn’t say it moves forward from “Red Letter Days” which really impressed me when it came out due to its fantastic sound & really simple catchy tunes. I don’t want to slate it completely, but it sounds quite generic in places and Brendan O’ Brien’s production reminds me of the latest Train album, which was overall a complete disaster. Whereas RLD was seen as a move towards a mainstream sound, this is a move towards an overly polished slightly bland sound . There is none of the slight country, rootsy twang which worked so well before. The worst song on RS for me is “God Says Nothing Back” which is overproduced and lacking in any edge or substance. The best song on the album is “Back To California” which is punchy and focused and shows that The Wallflowers know how to rock. “The Beautiful side of somewhere” is a catchy enough radio friendly pop rock song, which sounds really good, but isn’t breaking any new ground. I’d recommend you buy “Breach” instead of this- it does everything this album does, but much better. Having said that, this isn’t a bad album and if you have all of the other albums, you could do a lot worse than to buy this album, after all The Wallflowers are a great band.

Different but excellent

These songs are still The Wallflowers but at the same time express a new direction. The lyrics are still the right mix of catchy and cryptic, there is a good balance between crunching lead guitar hooks and spare acoustic fingerpicking and the overall feel of the album is genuinely great. These words can't do it justice. Listen for yourself - I wholeheartedly reccomend "Rebel, Sweetheart".

More varied and wonderful

I have been a Wallflowers fan since Bringing Down the Horse and I just love them. Dylan writes lyrics that hit me so perfectly. Rebel Sweetheart has a richer and more varied sound, whilst still holding on to the essence of the band. Dylans lyrics are still fantastic and the band has definately managed to create a bit more subtance for themselves. My favourite album for a long time.


Formed: 1990 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

As part of the mid-'90s revival of roots-rock, the Wallflowers held a special connection to one of the original inspirations: vocalist/songwriter/guitarist Jakob Dylan. Though he is the son of a legend, Jakob's similarities to his father are occasional -- in fact, the Wallflowers are more influenced by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers than original '60s folk-rock, though lyrically, Jakob remains a close companion to the original Dylan. Born in 1970, Jakob Dylan was raised in Los Angeles by his mother,...
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Top Albums and Songs by The Wallflowers

Rebel, Sweetheart (UK Only Version), The Wallflowers
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