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David Styburski
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CD Review: The Wallflowers ''Rebel Sweetheart''


Not too many people seem to really love the Wallflowers, but a lot of people seem to like them. Jakob Dylan and company tend to make passive adult-contemporary records that bring to mind the congenial debut albums of musical peers Counting Crows and Hootie and the Blowfish. The Wallflowers’ songs traditionally rock a little bit but not too much, capable of getting people’s feet tapping. Dylan’s lyrics are rarely moving, but he seems to strive for more maturity and literary respect with his words than the hack songwriters of mainstream radio hits. And if fans listen carefully to the arrangements of the band’s pop tunes, they can occasionally find hints of folk leanings and country twang that suggest that if the Wallflowers tried, the group could successfully forge an identity as a poor man’s Wilco.

The band’s unadventurous and nonetheless extremely likeable fifth full-length effort, “Rebel Sweetheart” is a professional collection of songs that adhere to pop-rock formulas, but only a snob would question the dependability of those formulas. Although “Beautiful Sides of Summer” and “Days of Wonder” aren’t trailblazing tunes or even in the same league as the rock-solid tracks on the band’s breakthrough, “Bringing Down the Horse,” they prove that Dylan’s previous mastery of pop craft on early hits like “The Difference” and “Sixth Avenue Heartache” was no fluke, thereby easing the worries of fans who wondered if the band would continue to engage in such yawn festivals as the bulk of 2002’s “Red Letter Days.” “Rebel Sweetheart” is a pleasant, minor release that reinforces what the Wallflowers do well and makes one wonder what they might be capable of doing someday if they ever decide to use their talents in a more ambitious manner.


Posted: May 26, 2005 ,   Modified: September 18, 2005

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