Don’t hate Jakob Dylan because he’s beautiful. Hate Jakob Dylan because he’s not his father, never will be his father, doesn’t belong in the same business as his father. Hate Jakob Dylan for that cruel strand of DNA linking him forever to his iconic pop. Yes, hate Jakob Dylan for that reason and that reason alone. Hell, Jakob Dylan sure does, and these days, he’s feeling that some of you do, too.
Or at least that’s the sad-sack story the brooding son of Bob is selling on Breach, the Wallflowers’ four-years-in-the-making follow-up to the multiplatinum Bringing Down the Horse. Although the new disc is co-produced by Michael Pennanother artist with weary ties to a larger-than-life relationand features notable cameos by Elvis Costello, Frank Black, and Mike Campbell, Breach is ultimately the damned-fate confessional of a man drowning in the shadow of the Man. Ever since the Wallflowers’ 1992 self-titled debut, critics have been slobbering for Bob-related revelations from the prodigal son. Well, wait ’til they get a load of this: “Now look at you/With your worn out shoes/Living proof evolution is through/We’re stuck with you/This revolution is doomed.”
Of course, for all of young Dylan’s thinly veiled lyrics about unworthinessand the accompanying critical attention these claims will no doubt garnerthe 10-track Breach still manages to sound like the MTV-friendly roots-pop smash that Interscope execs are betting their bonuses on. Can’t forget those filthy-rich kids, you know. Nevertheless, whereas ubiquitous hits “One Headlight” and “6th Avenue Heartache” were really just aimless love songs masked as late-night diary entriesno family dirt to be found there, to be surefuture chart-toppers such as “Hand Me Down” and “Sleepwalker” are infectious admissions of brutal self-doubt lushly dressed as prom songs. Breach marks the first time the obsessively private Dylan has revealed even a hint of what’s going on behind those gorgeous blue eyes, and for that reasonalong with the fact that he’s a pinup hottie of the first orderthis album is gonna be huge.
After a bluesy, boozy guitar intro from second-in-command Wallflower Michael Ward, Dylan opens “Hand Me Down,” the album’s gorgeous, swooning first single, with these lines: “You won’t ever amount to much/You won’t be anyone/Now tell me what you were thinking of/How could you think you would be enough.” And if that doesn’t convince listeners that sometimes it sucks being Bob Dylan’s son, Jakob offers up a deceptively cheery chorus: “You’re a hand me down/It’s better when you’re not around/You feel good and you look like you should/But you won’t ever make us proud.” (Sharing a sly, merry-prankster streak with his dad, Jakob is no doubt looking forward to the joyfully oblivious TRL teenypoppers dedicating this slow shuffle to equally oblivious high school crushes.)
Surefire singles Nos. 2 and 3, “Sleepwalker” and “Some Flowers Bloom Dead,” feature faster beats and equally catchy chorusesnot to mention the return of ultra-cheesy Boston-esque hand-clapsbut Dylan continues with the front-and-center self-flagellation. “Maybe I could be the one they adored/That could be my reputation/It’s where I’m from that lets them think I’m a whore/I’m an educated virgin,” he croons on the soulful “Sleepwalker.” On the hard-driving “Some Flowers Bloom Dead”nothing enigmatic about that titlehe admits: “I’m so tired of waking up/Feelin’ bad/You haven’t been the kind of place I have/It couldn’t have hurt you now/To let this pass/As if it wasn’t hard enough.”
Although considerably stripped down in comparison with the big, boisterously jangly Bringing Down the Horseslower tunes “Mourning Train” and “Up From Under” are basically plugged-in Dust Bowl folk songsBreach offers plenty of showoff opportunities for those other Wallflowers (who, by the way, are currently rivaling the Heartbreakers in terms of gratuitous guesting on other people’s albums). Smooth-pated guitarist Ward has a keen ear for sugar-frosted pop licks. The charmingly goofy Rami Jaffee works his keyboards as if he were trying out for the Ringling Bros. band. With his myriad complex rhythms, pumped-up skinman Mario Calire has obviously studied at the Kenny Aronoff School of Drumming. And Greg Richling kicks off album opener “Letters From the Wasteland” with an ominous, sinister bass line, properly setting up Dylan to let the bad vibes fly (“Now boy keep still/Don’t spread yourself around/Get back in line/Eat your bread and just work the plow”).
With Breach, Dylan manages to please pretty much everyonethat is, everyone except those people who thought the Wallflowers were just warmed-over Matchbox 20 in the first place. He’s soothing his own soul with a sharpened songwriting style and some apparently much-needed inner analysis. His self-esteem issues have not interfered with his pop-song sense, appeasing the corporate suits who feared a return to the sound of his lyrically labyrinthine and damn-near unmarketable debut. And with his hunky cred on the teen beat, he’s saving Carson Daly from the constant embarrassment of grinnin’ ‘n’ pluggin’ the newest BackSync Spears song. Sure, without the likable pop framework and the endless hooks, Breach would probably be nothing more than a whiny bore. And yes, it is a stretch feeling sorry for the rich, beautiful, talented Jakob Dylan. But then again, my father isn’t one of the greatest songwriters of all time (sorry, Dad, but it’s true), so what the hell do I know? CP