The Wallflowers
Red Letter Days
Interscope Records
2002
F

no matter what Jakob Dylan ever does, he is completely screwed. Stuck in the shadow of his legendary father, he has nowhere to go. He will never do anything to make anyone think of him first and his father second, which is his ultimate damnation.


His latest album with his group The Wallflowers (which is a bit of a tenuous identity, seeing as how only one member in the current incarnation has weathered the storm from the beginning) is more of the easygoing monotony that has become the modus operandi of the band’s previous releases. Dylan makes music for people who cannot be bothered by true passion and instead seek out safe, clean rock that is ideal listening for living room redecoration.


It is not that Dylan does not know how to write a song, or, even a good hook, mind you. What he does come up with, though, is of the “been there/heard that” variety. There is nothing that can be found here that would signal any burning need to be heard. Not one song that takes the listener to a higher plain, emotionally, in any way. It is music’s answer to powdered milk. When Dylan does invest a song with emotion, as he does on “Everybody Out Of The Water”, there is nothing in the lyrics to back it up. The song is simply wasted energy.


On the first track, “When You’re On Top”, the placement of electronic, hip-hop style drums in the beginning, gives the already cold reading of the lyrics another layer of frost. The song does percolate a bit in the chorus, with the soaring refrain of “I feel fine with the sun in my eyes/The wind in my air/From falling out of this sky”, which gains more feeling as the song progresses.


Producers Tobias Miller (a former member of the band) and Bill Appleberry, coat the whole project with a nice gloss, where every single instrument sounds nice and pristine, especially Jakob’s slightly gravelly growl of a voice. Nothing dares fall out of its place in these proceedings, however.


The album ambles from one song to the next. You have your slow, lovey-dovey type tunes (“Three Ways”, “Closer To You” and “If You Never Get Sick”), your bump in the blood pressure ones (“How Good It Can Get”, “Too Late To Quit” and “Everything I Need”) and, even a TV theme song (for The Guardian-“Empire Of My Mind”). Everything is here with the exception of one song that is anywhere near as good as “One Headlight” (off of “Bringing Down The Horse”). This is simply a big old slab of fourth-quarter marketing. Mediocre to its very last note, it reminds you that mediocrity is indeed far worse than simply awful.


Reviewed by: Brett Hickman
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01
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