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Secrets, Sentimentality and a Severe Lack of Direction: Wallows' New Album Epitomizes a Band Running on Autopilot

Wallows will always have a special place in my heart. They were my first real intimate concert experience; baby's first pit, baby's first life-changing opener (huge shoutout to Penelope Isles), baby's first concert outside of his home state, not to mention my first 15 seconds fame when I started showing up in all the tour footage from the Tampa, FL show. Hell, I still remember finding the "These Days" music video in a suggested playlist on YouTube and whistling the tune nonstop for weeks. I was truly insufferable during the Nothing Happens rollout, what with Clairo popping up for a surprise feature on the lead single and all the accompanying music videos for "Scrawny" and "Sidelines," I was eating well! My excitement and already steadfast dedication to the band and the fanbase only grew during the early COVID days with the band's steady flow of singles and the release of the Remote EP in late 2020. Wallows was truly the soundtrack to the end of my teens and the beginning of what I considered my young adult life.

Years later, I've come a long way since my first introduction to the band. I moved back home, I transferred schools, lost and made friends. Expectedly, I've done a whole lot of changing since Nothing Happens, but disappointingly, over the last several years, Wallows doesn't seem to have done any evolving themselves. The LA indie-pop rock trio released their third studio album, Model, on Friday, May 24, set to soundtrack their biggest and most ambitious headlining tour to date. While I'll be the first to admit that Wallows puts on a good show having experienced it firsthand, I have serious doubts you'll hear very much of the new record on tour. The band has been chattering about their excitement to tour and play the album live since the release of the album's second single, "Calling After Me," back in March, with the success of the singles only inflating anticipation for the release of tour dates and the full LP.

Unfortunately, social media anticipation and sub-Reddit excitement only get you so far when you don't have armies of fans who will stream your music and sell out your tours regardless of quality. Frontman Dylan Minnette explained to DIY that the overall theme for Model was "relinquish," stating that they "really didn’t want to overthink this time,” and that they "wanted to choose [their] battles, and really trust the process," compared to their more drawn-out, meticulous approach to 2022's Tell Me That It's Over. Model, while a better offering than their previous record, still falls a few steps short of a cohesive LP, marking a huge step backwards for Wallows.

Wallows recording Model
Caution! Dudes at... work? I thinks that's what this is?

Model is simplistic, with several fun moments scattered throughout the album, but does very little to separate itself from the rest of the band's catalog. It's littered with fleeting moments of genius, small grooves and buildups that give the appearance of an exciting new turn for the band, but end up leading nowhere. It's an album that looks to push new ground for the group amidst their meteoric rise to popularity in recent years, but their tendency to cling to former glories and general lack of a musical sense of adventure hold the record back in a major way. Instrumentally, lots of the tracks on Model would come across as huge steps forward for any fledgling indie rock band, due in part to the band's overall ability as technical musicians. The three's dedication to the craft is made evident on the record's B-sides, like "She's an Actress" and "Don't You Think It's Strange." However, Minnette and co-guitarist/vocalist Braeden Lemasters' drab, cookie-cutter vocal performances only subtract from whatever headway the instrumental makes. Even the better tracks on Model, most of which being the previously released singles, suffer from the band's newfound musical conservatism.

Wallows' roots lie in the bedroom pop/rock boom of 2018 and 2019, relying heavily on and subverting the sounds and templates that made the genre what it was; simple earworm melodies, the heavy use of chime pop synths, and that airy, mumbly vocal style that perfectly complimented the album's adolescent themes of naivety and young love, personal insecurities, and the nostalgia of personal growth. Nothing Happens was clearly professionally made, there was nothing "bedroom" about it.  It was anthemic, it was scratchy and creative, and it spoke volumes about the young emotional experience, but the plainness of the album that spoke to the every-man is really what made that record so exciting and so successful. It was young people making music for young people, and Wallows' subsequent releases continued to reflect that idea, while still trying on new sounds and styles. "Dig What You Dug" and "Nobody Gets Me (Like You) off Remote especially showcased Wallows' eagerness to aim higher. With Model, in their attempt to let the album happen on its own, they instead fell back on old tricks and tired grooves, undoing years of creative progress, resulting in an overall uninteresting record.

As I said, Wallows will always have a special place in my heart. I've done so much growing, and for a short while, the band that soundtracked some terribly formative years was growing right alongside me. But in an annoyingly ironic way, Wallows became the very thing they once sang about. They've become unable to move on from their youthful naivety and have regressed into a mere caricature of the band they once were.

Rob Lucchesi



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