Posted by: willenvelope | July 2, 2008

Jakob Dylan

Jakob Dylan
Seeing Things ( Columbia/Starbucks Entertainment, 2008 )

Unslushed because: I’ve been writing about a lot of indie folk rock lately. I wanted to hear how a big-name, major-label equivalent measured up. Surely Rick Rubin’s prominently billed production will bring something new to the table.

Factors not initially considered: Nobody panic: The Wallflowers have not broken up. This is just a mostly acoustic side project from leader and principal songwriter Dylan as the band takes a little break. And if you made it through this paragraph without falling asleep, you have more fortitude than I do. I took a nap between the second and third sentences.

Upon further review: When I was about four, there was one nursery-school classmate who had no personality but really cool toys. Our mothers would arrange a play date and I’d go over to his big house, where we’d each ride our own Big Wheel in the long driveway and eat cupcakes at snack time. But the entire enterprise was still a chore because the kid was just so damned boring. That, I’m afraid, is Seeing Things.

Appropriately, Rick Rubin’s squeaky-clean engineering is not as regal-sounding as his famous work with Johnny Cash, but you know he used the fanciest microphones money could buy; the folksy instrumentation is elegantly restrained, leaving plenty of space for Dylan, whose voice sounds a little like Tom Petty’s here, to show through. The problem is that Dylan’s lyrics show through, too—and there isn’t much to them. Among stilted yarns about tending the crops (“My forefathers, they worked this land/And I was schooled in the tyranny of nature’s plans,” in “Will It Grow”) and taking to the battlefield (“I Told You I Couldn’t Stop”), Dylan reflects on a world gone (kind of) wrong (“Evil Is Alive and Well”) with limited resonance and awkward green-eggs-and-ham couplets. Sometimes his bad rhymes seem downright obstinate: In “Valley of the Low Sun,” why does it have to be, “I know soldiers are not paid to think/But something is making us sick”? Sink would’ve been just as good as sick, right?

Well, no, not really. In the garage, next to the Big Wheels, there might have been a state-of-the-art turd-polishing machine, too, but while that poor kid was standing around for 45 minutes to see what came out of it, I was down at the end of his long driveway, waiting for my mom to take me home.

Jakob Dylan Web site



  1. Hold up…Starbucks Entertainment? I was about to make a comment to the effect that he seems like a nice guy if a little dull, shadow of his father, blah blah. But you know what? Anyone who lets a chain of crappy coffee shops distribute their work deserves to be smacked around. Welcome to adult-contempo mediocrity, Jakob.

  2. Yeah, although I’d guess the Starbucks part just came packaged with the Columbia deal.

    Note that I took pains not to mention Daddy in this post. I think Jakob Dylan is fully capable of sucking all by himself.

  3. No, he had full control and approval of that one, and you know it. Not every Columbia artist (term used loosely) has a Starbucks tie-in.

  4. I don’t know; would Thunderegg refuse such an arrangement? Think of all the free chai lattes.

  5. You got this spot on. Depressingly mediocre. The songs are slightly embarrassing in places (faux working man blues) and on others he seems to be depressingly missing his band, la la la-ing where another guitar or a drum might go. File in inessential.

  6. the first i heard or saw of jakobdylan was when the wallflowers opened for the spin doctors at that theatre across from the schubert (the palace??) in the fall off 1992 in new haven. i went to that concert with adrian cortez, and though our interest in the opening act paled in comparison to our excitement about the prospect of hearing pocketfullofkryptonite LIVE!!!!, at some point, adrian turned to me and told me that the dude onstage was bob dylan’s son. so while i can’t comment on jakdyl’s new album, i can say that that may have been the only truthful thing adrian told me in our eight months of friendship.

    adrian had posters on his wall for siouxsie and the banshees and KMFDM. i listened to the dead and jackson browne. i think we kinda met halfway at the spindoctors.

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