The third album from Jakob Dylan and associates conveys a certain sense of mystery, and not always in a good way.
Lyrically, Dylan has his hits and misses like any writer. Hits include lines like “Cupid, don’t draw back your bow, / Sam Cooke didn’t know what I know,” from “Sleepwalker”. But too often, we know exactly how Jakob feels now that it’s over, but we have little or no clue what “it” was in the first place.
The technique may have personal potency for the writer, but without a smattering of alluring details, more epilogue than story is a risky formula. Not surprisingly, the songs that stay most in the present tense work best.
Found The Sound
The disc is splendidly produced by Andrew Slater and Michael Penn, both of whom have contributed to the band’s earlier projects. (Breach) manages to recall everything from a Nirvana bass line (“Letters From The Wasteland”) to Cat Stevens’ introspective arrangements (“Mourning Train”, “Up From Under”), constantly adding flair to the classic rock lineup.
At that point, Slater and Penn seize the song’s recurring riff, shifting it to and from no less than four instruments, constantly moving different textures in and out of the mix. It’s a decent song, but it’s a great recording.
The perfect example of adding production savvy to a song’s strengths is “I’ve Been Delivered”. Its repetitive structure could make for a boring four minutes. However, Dylan takes the track halfway to success simply by leaning on his understated, engaging voice and some deft phrasing. At that point, Slater and Penn seize the song’s recurring riff, shifting it to and from no less than four instruments, constantly moving different textures in and out of the mix. It’s a decent song, but it’s a great recording.
With A Little (Too Much?) Help From My Friends
Indeed, (Breach) often delivers the pleasing sound of musicians who not only play well but listen to the other players well, too. The problem is, you can’t always tell if a given part belongs to one of the Wallflowers or to Jon Brion, the Heartbreakers’ Mike Campbell, Penn, or Greg Leisz, who all drop in again to contribute an uncertain amount of guitar and keyboards.
Michael Ward was an established guitarist (School Of Fish, John Hiatt) before joining this band; he must be tired of paying his dues on the road only to get to the studio and hear the tracks of his peers. And then there’s former Smashing Pumpkins drummer Matt Chamberlain, who for some reason replaced regular Mario Calire for this entire outing.
As it turns out, the toughest musical umbilical cord Jakob Dylan might need to cut comes not from his father, but from his accomplished friends. Dylan admirably has insisted at every turn on forging his own identity, but when it comes to making records, his band has yet to do the same.
(This is another review from a batch of recently unearthed articles that I wrote for the Music Monitor in 2000-2001.)