- Cullman, Alabama


April 11, 2011

PLAYBACK: The Wallflowers saved the best for last

Album review

CULLMAN — Known mostly for his famous father, Jakob Dylan built his early career simultaneously riding musical coattails, and trying to escape the thousand-foot shadow cast by his father.

But, in the mid-to-late 2000s, Bob Dylan’s youngest son finally made the kind of album his father would be proud of — the only problem was that not many people found it.

After exploding onto the scene with his band The Wallflowers and the quad-Platinum disc Bringing Down the Horse in 1996, buoyed by radio-friendly hits like “One Headlight,” “6th Avenue Heartache,” and “Three Marlenas,” Jakob was being heralded as the new voice of a generation.

But, that potential floundered over the course of his next two proper releases, with Breach in 2000 and Red Letter Days in 2002 failing to reach the level of mass hysteria set in the mid-1990s.

Though Jakob would soon go the solo route in 2008 and put The Wallflowers on indefinite hiatus, he took one final stab under The Wallflowers moniker with 2005’s Rebel, Sweetheart. Pronounced with “Rebel” as a verb, as opposed to a noun, the last proper album from The Wallflowers is arguably the group’s best.

It seems almost fitting that Rebel, Sweetheart would come along nearly 10 years after Bringing Down the Horse shredded the charts and set unattainable expectations for the band, as it took nearly 10 years for Dylan to match true songwriting ability with the accessibility of his breakout album.

Rebel, Sweetheart doesn’t just fit in well with The Wallflowers’ catalog — this is an album I believe could fall in line with some of the better works of daddy Dylan himself. It took four tries to make the perfect Wallflowers album, but it was well worth the wait.

Jakob dabbles with political overtures in his songwriting, like on album opener “Days of Wonder,” but stays on point and never gets heavy-handed with his message.

Roots rock takes like “The Beautiful Side of Somewhere,” and “We’re Already There” could have easily been hits, had this album found any true mainstream success; and the contemplative “God Says Nothing Back” is worth the price of admission alone.

The production also feels much more organic on Rebel, Sweetheart, with the glossier sounds and crisp production of Breach and Red Letter Days taking a back seat to a more gritty and live sound.

Though he is now focused more on his acoustic-based solo albums (the albeit uneven 2008 Seeing Things is a great disc), Rebel, Sweetheart deserves acclaim as the most even-keeled Wallflowers album ever produced. If you ever wondered whatever happened to Bob Dylan’s son, wonder no more: He finally did live up to the lofty family name, and Rebel, Sweetheart is proof enough.

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