It is a well-known, much belabored fact that Wallflower’s lead singer-guitarist Jakob Dylan hit the genetics jackpot. True, he is the son of folk-icon Bob Dylan, but his looks, a far cry from his father’s awkward and battered appearance, are clearly the result of his mother’s DNA. The same, it would seem, goes for his music.
By daring to compete with his father in the songwriting business, Jakob Dylan opened himself wide to critics eager to tear him apart, endlessly comparing his skills to those of his father. Lyrics were pored over in hopes of finding some tabloid-worthy revelation about his famous dad, and every interview opened with Jakob’s heated disclaimer that he is not his father. After listening to the Wallflower’s new release Breach (Universal), this denial is a blinding flash of the obvious.
The Dylan name, and the rock legacy it carries, has been a curse on Jakob’s career. As he struggles to write lyrics that appear gritty and real to approach the poeticness of his father’s Like A Rolling Stone, or Mr. Tambourine Man, he falls prey to folk clich?s. Two songs in a row addressed to Mama are a bit much by any standard. He seems compelled to rhyme each line, leading to awkward, overused combinations. The chorus of Hand Me Down, while acceptable the first time through, grows somewhat tiresome by its fifth repetition.
Guest vocalists, such as ex-Pixie Frank Black and ’80s alternative hero Elvis Costello – known for his punk classics like Radio, Radio – receive hardly any credit for their contributions. Although the artists are listed in the album’s leaflet, there is no indication of what tracks they contribute to. This oversight hardly matters, as their voices are lost, forever buried underneath Jakob’s limited vocal range – his only similarity to the older Dylan.
With such morose titles as Some Flowers Bloom Dead and Mourning Train, the band ventures into the realm of dark pop. Songs are awash with the eerie country-rock sound that led to such Tom Petty hits as Mary Jane’s Last Dance. But without the depth of Petty’s lyrics or inspired songwriting, the music becomes repetitive and depressing. This album moves at the same pace as the average funeral procession, but without the emotion.
Despite the album’s death-march speed, there are some clear pop hooks that, like well-placed animal traps, ensnare the listener. Track nine, Murder 101, breathes life into the album, but it arrives far too late. A bland, unnecessary secret song ends this record not with a bang but a whimper. Against the band’s best efforts, this album comes dead on arrival.