Wallflower – ‘Teach Yourself To Swim’

By Ellie Odurny

Wallflower have been playing their own brand of emo infused alt-rock for a good few years, popping up on festival bills and touring the UK fairly steadily with a growing collection of singles and EPs under their belt. Their debut album ‘Teach Yourself To Swim’ has been a long time in the making, but it’s clear the band have put a huge amount of thought into their first full length offering.

Opening track ‘A Parody Of…’ jumps straight in with visceral lyricism, and is a definite nod to the emo style of some of Wallflower’s previous output, although it certainly doesn’t define the rest of the album. In fact, with so many genres at play throughout, it’s not really possible to define the album’s style at all.

The four singles put out prior to the album’s full release give a glimpse of everything Wallflower have tried to pack into ‘Teach Yourself To Swim’. The distortion fuelled ‘Hungry Eyes’ showcases the heavier side of the band, ‘Eat Away At My Heart’ is more of a pop rock toe-tapper, ‘Passer By’ brings in a synth based post rock element and ‘Further Down’ is a kind of southern rock ballad.

This genre mixing might be more jarring if any of the different elements stood out with any kind of clout, but somehow they all merge together with a sense of cohesion. At times this is a plus, and helps create an overall ambience, however there are times when it feels like some of the rawness and spontaneity has been curated out of their sound and the identity of the band gets a little lost.

There are many consistently good elements throughout the record worth noting. The production and subtle layering highlight the careful consideration that’s gone into Wallflower’s writing. There’s an understated simplicity to the gentle harmonies and isolated guitars on ‘Blood And Stone’ and ‘Doom In Your Head’. The dynamics and slow build of ‘Anacrusis’ and ‘The Distance’ display intricate musicianship and a multi layered anthemic sound, indicative of some of the instrumental post rock outfits on the scene.

The semi-screams, bent chords and churning riffs of the heavier numbers pack a punch, too. ‘Hungry Eyes’ is a standout track, with its crushing breakdown and emotive lyrics, transitioning cleverly from a big powerful chorus to an exposed clean vocal, using that empty space to deliver an effective sonic contrast. ‘Dread’ uses a more subtle rise and fall in its construction, with tight drumming and a blues laden guitar line. It’s this subtlety though that detracts from the impact this record could have had. It makes you wonder if there were earlier versions of some of the songs that retained that angsty energy without being fine tuned to something slightly less exciting.

Closing track ‘take, take, take’ jumps straight in on a chugging discord, lasts only two and a half minutes and then ends the album with a surprisingly abrupt full stop. The lyric “Take the things that burn inside you, scream them out and feel it in your soul” sums up what Wallflower clearly wanted to achieve with ‘Teach Yourself To Swim’, and at times this passion really does shine. It doesn’t quite have the edge to stand out as a ground-breaking debut, but it’s certainly full of talent and potential.

ELLIE ODURNY

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