Skip to main content

12 by The Wallflowers

"12 by..." aims to summarize an artist's career in 12 songs. This one features...

Underrated is a difficult word to use when you're referring to a mainstream pop band with at least two huge hits and a lead singer sired by Bob Dylan, but The Wallflowers definitely don't get enough credit.

1. "One Headlight" (from Bringing Down The Horse, 1996) 
I remember hearing rumors that this was about a man who'd had a testicle removed. It's funny to listen to the lyrics with that interpretation in mind ("we can drive it home with one headlight") but I don't really buy it. 

2. "6th Avenue Heartache" (from Bringing Down The Horse, 1996) 
This was huge in college thanks to the fact that we had a row of party houses on 6th Avenue. They definitely saw their share of heartache, on a nightly basis. Thankfully, I lived on 7th Avenue. 

3. "The Difference" (from Bringing Down The Horse, 1996) 
Rami Jaffe's organ was really integral to the band. He was Steve Nieve to Jakob Dylan's Elvis Costello. Jakob starts to show a bit of lyrical punch: "The only difference that I see / is you are exactly the same as you used to be." 

4. "Letters From The Wasteland" (from Breach, 2000) 
The second (in this case third, I guess) album is where the band puts the proof in the pudding. Breach, while at first just merely whelming, proved itself over time. Letters From The Wasteland manages to be open and claustrophobic all at once. Plus, Jakob has been sharpening his pencil even more: "It may take two to tango, but boy, just one to let go." 

5. "Hand Me Down" (from Breach, 2000) 
Jakob Dylan spent most of his early interviews dodging questions about his father. Whether that was well-advised or not, it's refreshing to hear him finally address it head on. Playing the role of the son who will never match up, he's heartbreaking: "Look at you with your worn out shoes / Living proof that evolution is through." One gets the idea that he's confronting (and conquering) his inner demons. 

6. "Sleepwalker" (from Breach, 2000) 
Finally, a sense of humor emerges! "Cupid don't draw back your bow / Sam Cooke didn't know what I know" 

7. "When You're On Top" (from Red Letter Days, 2002) 
I absolutely hated this song when it came out. Then the verses started to remind me of the elder Dylan fronting Talking Heads. The chorus opens up a great can of melody and makes this a weirdly satisfying single. 

8. "How Good It Can Get" (from Red Letter Days, 2002) 
This is more familiar musical territory (it could have easily fit on Bringing Down The Horse), but the lyrical optimism is refreshing. 

9. "If You Never Got Sick" (from Red Letter Days, 2002) 
This is the story of a bad relationship. What's interesting is that he's obviously conflicted about the whole thing. The verses are mostly about how terrible this person is ("It's the invisible breath of a storm on the rise / that I feel whenever you arrive"), but the chorus is almost sweet in a weird way ("Baby if you never got sick / I wouldn't get to hold you"). 

10. "See You When I Get There" (from Red Letter Days, 2002) 
If you think that all The Wallflowers are capable of is sturdy country rock, take a listen to this poppy gem. It's not a major departure, but it does sound like it might fit on Elvis Costello's Get Happy album.

11. "The Beautiful Side Of Somewhere" (from Rebel, Sweetheart, 2005) 
Rebel, Sweetheart was an all-around triumph. The lyrics were sharp, the melodies memorable. Nearly any song from the album could slot into this 12, but I picked this one because of the title. 

12. "All Things New Again" (from Rebel, Sweetheart, 2005) 
Jakob was obviously in a happier place on this record; there's nothing more inspiring than a new beginning. "I'm an unpainted portrait / I am staring at a new sunset / without any memories yet."


Popular posts from this blog

12 by Weezer

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course). This one features... I decided to take an unconventional route for this 12 by, and pretend Weezer have already released a "greatest hits." Here's what I think that would look like:  1) "Buddy Holly", 2) "Undone - the Sweater Song", 3) "My Name Is Jonas", 4) "The Good Life", 5) "El Scorcho", 6) "Hash Pipe", 7) "Island in the Sun", 8) "Dope Nose", 9) "Keep Fishin'", 10) "Beverly Hills", 11) "We Are All On Drugs", 12) "Pork and Beans".  Here's a different take: 1. " Say It Ain't So"  (from Weezer , 1994)  A little bit heavy, a little bit catchy, quiet-loud dynamics. So basically, it's Pixies lite. The song is interesting lyrically because it's basically nonsense until the "Dear daddy..." bridge, which lets out a t

12 by Vicious Vicious

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course). This one features... If you need a reference point for the work of Vicious Vicious mastermind Erik Appelwick, the most appropriate would be Beck. Like Mr. Hansen, Minnesota-based Appelwick has the ability to navigate between making you laugh and making you cry and making you want to dance, and embraces genres from country to R& B to folk to pop.  I've included songs from the two albums Appelwick did under the name Tropical Depression, because honestly there's not a lot of difference between that and Vicious Vicious.  I very literally  wrote the book  on Appelwick, so please feel confident you are hearing from an authority here.  If you have Amazon Music Unlimited, you can listen to an alternate version of list here  (sadly, not all of VV's music is on the service). 1. "Shake That Ass on the Dance Floor" (from Blood + Clover , 2003) A loungy, laconic come-on

12 by Jenny Lewis

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course). This one features... Completely separate from Rilo Kiley, Jenny Lewis has put together an impressive oeuvre that is very difficult to winnow down to just 12 songs (if you include her work with Rilo Kiley, fuhgeddaboudit). But I've made what I feel is a valiant attempt. Because I admire Jenny's lyrics so much, I'm going to limit my commentary to a favorite couplet from the song. (If you have Amazon Music Unlimited, you can listen along here .) 1. "Rise Up With Fists!!!" (from Rabbit Fur Coat , 2005) "But you can wake up younger, under the knife / And you can wake up sounder, if you get analyzed." 2. "Melt Your Heart" (from  Rabbit Fur Coat , 2005) "It's like a valentine from your mother / It's bound to melt your heart." 3. "Born Secular" (from Rabbit Fur Coat , 2005) "God works in mysterious ways / And God give