Having toured with the likes of Boston Manor, WSTR and even Funeral For A Friend, South London’s Wallflower have become somewhat of a hidden gem in the UK emo/post-hardcore scene. Their first two EPs, Summer Daze (2014) and When It Fell Apart (2017) were undoubtable hits, and there was no questioning if their debut album could continue this momentum.
Teach Yourself To Swim’s four lead singles certainly made it unclear what to expect. Politically-driven ‘Hungry Eyes’ is far heavier than expected, with added seething riffs to make for a powerful rock offering, while ‘Eat Away At My Heart’ is a scuzzy development of their earlier work. Then came the slow production-filled ‘Passer-by’ as a complete curveball, and finally the brooding ‘Further Down’, reminiscent of Brand New. These are completely varied tracks that stray far enough away from their older work to justify the years’ break in between, but gave no real preview of what theme the 12-track release would actually follow.
The genres explored are quite all over the place and at times disjointed. Jumping from mellow, easy-listening emo, to Queens of The Stone Age-inspired hard rock, then euphoric, ambient production, it’s a lot to comprehend. Two years since they released a single and three since they released an EP, Wallflower will have bound to have found new influences but seemingly struggled to be selective with them. The three heavier tracks, ‘Hungry Eyes, ‘Dread’ and ‘take, take, take.’ stick out like sore thumbs despite being great efforts as individual singles.
Similarly, the throbbing synthwave production of ‘Passer-by’ is an interesting feature that’s executed far better than expected for a band who’ve never dabbled in this genre before. However, only appearing once rather than subtly weaved in as a recurring soundscape makes it feel too random and unexpected to be fully enjoyed within the album.
Song lengths is also an issue with Teach Yourself To Swim. Almost all them waver between four to five minutes long, and only one falls short of three. This results in chilled-out track becoming diminished to tedious and repetitive. When it comes to softer emo subgenres, there’s a very fine line between an amazing piece of work and just plain dull. In Wallflower’s case, lose that extra minute and they’d strike gold.
While almost all the tracks are solid singles, when played consecutively on an album, it dulls their individual heart and flare. If trimmed down and maybe even just placed in a more constructive order, Teach Yourself To Swim could have been a really strong debut full-length from one of the UK’s most promising up-and-coming bands.