After a seven-year break, the band blooms again with help from one of its idols, Mick Jones of the Clash.
For fans of the Wallflowers, the band's break felt more like a breakup.
After all, frontman Jakob Dylan went off and made two solo albums and did his own tour. Keyboardist Rami Jaffee ran off and joined the Foo Fighters. A full seven years -- a career for most rock acts -- passed before the Wallflowers released this year's album, "Glad All Over."
"I wouldn't call it a comeback," said Dylan, who brings the Grammy-winning band back to First Avenue on Saturday. "It's just something we can always depend on. I think taking breaks is important. I'd rather that groups take breaks than break up. A lot of groups do that hastily because they can't get along for that one moment. But we're wise enough to walk away and come back with a better attitude. I'm fortunate to have a group that can get over whatever differences we have."
The Wallflowers' sixth album features a new drummer and a bit of a new vibe. Those two things are not coincidental.
Jack Irons, who has played with Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam and Neil Young, is the Wallflowers' fourth drummer. His presence contributed significantly to the new groove-oriented sound on "Glad All Over."
"He's a huge addition," Dylan said. "He's been the spark that's really started each song. It didn't seem at first that it was going to be the most obvious backbeat for this group. But it's given us a whole new life."
The Wallflowers took a different approach in the studio this time. Instead of Dylan, the principal songwriter, arriving with complete songs, the band worked up tunes in the studio.
"We wanted grooves first," he said. "That was important to us -- to have everything feel good first and then worry about crafting a song around it."
The first single is "Reboot the Mission," a noisy dub-driven, danceable rocker that not only evokes the Clash but features that band's Mick Jones on guitar and vocals (he also plays on another number, "Misfits and Lovers").
Seeing the Clash had "a gigantic impact on me as a teenager. Still does," said Dylan, 42. "Those records have stood the test of time. Mick Jones is a phenomenal character and presence in rock 'n' roll. It was a thrill for me and the band [to play with him], and it's a thrill to hear his voice on the radio in a current situation."
The Jones connection enabled Dylan to one-up his dad, Bob, who wrote in his 2002 memoir "Chronicles Vol. 1" that he wished he had enlisted Jones to play with him in the late 1980s.
"I got there first. I pull more weight, that's what it is," Jakob joked.
As with many of Bob Dylan's songs, the lyrics of "Reboot the Mission" have been misinterpreted, according to its composer.
"I guess people think of it as some kind of manifesto for the group itself, but it really isn't," he said. "It's just meant that everybody can use that message every now and then to put your feet back on the track and reboot whatever it is you're working on."
Don't think the Wallflowers are trying to give their guitar-driven rock sound a makeover. Dylan's unmistakable raspy voice and Jaffee's organ are still defining sounds on the new disc, whether it's the dark "Devil's Waltz" or the Springsteen-evoking "It Won't Be Long (Till We're Not Wrong Anymore)."
Break not by design
The Wallflowers' prolonged hiatus was not by design. The tour ended in 2005 and "everyone scattered and decided to do something else," Dylan said. "Our bond was strong enough that we didn't have to address that. It was possible we wouldn't work for a few months or a year or two or three, but it became more like seven. Time slips away."
After scoring such hits as "One Headlight" and "6th Avenue Heartache" with the Wallflowers in the 1990s, Dylan felt compelled to make solo albums that had a more pronounced singer/songwriter and almost Americana minimalist vibe. Taking those tunes to the stage was not easy for him.
"I had a good time doing those solo records, and they were important and necessary to make, and I'm proud of those records. But it was more of an isolated experience. There was a lot less release [in performing] those records than I imagined it would be," he said. "At my core, I need this [Wallflowers] experience as much as I need the other."
The Wallflowers, who released their debut in 1992, still feature Dylan, Jaffee and longtime bassist Greg Richling.
"The band is stronger than ever," the frontman said. "I know most people say that in interviews about their new albums. But I can honestly say it hasn't always felt powerful and great. We haven't always had the right lineup. It feels like it's been a long time waiting to get to this place."
Jon Bream • 612-673-1719 Twitter: @jonbream