Release Date: Jun 10, 2008
Record label: Sony
Genre(s): Rock, Pop, Alternative
When the songwriter from a songwriter-driven band steps out on his own the question always hangs in the air: did he need to forsake his band in order to cut this set of songs? In the case of Seeing Things, the first album Jakob Dylan has released outside of the confines of the Wallflowers, he most certainly did. Quiet, reflective, based almost entirely on acoustic guitars, Seeing Things is intimate in a way the road-ready Wallflowers never were, although the tunes are as sturdy and plainspoken as Dylan's songs for the band. Indeed, there's always been a modesty at the core of his writing, so he benefits greatly from this humble setting, masterminded -- as so many big-budget down to basics departures are in the 2000s -- by Rick Rubin, known for his stripped-down reinventions of Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond.
Even if Jakob Dylan didn't have the disadvantage of being the offspring of America's most revered living songwriter, he'd still have trouble finding a niche to call his own. His first album without his band, the Wallflowers, has been produced by that reliable rebooter of careers, Rick Rubin, but there's a limit to what even Rubin can do when the raw material is derivative and so-so at best. Almost entirely acoustic, Seeing Things takes after Springsteen's Nebraska and Johnny Cash's American Recordings series, but Dylan lacks the high-watt magnetism needed to pull off such stripped-down songs.
The rootsy rock Jakob Dylan pasted up with the Wallflowers enabled him to escape comparisons to his father. Seeing Things, his first solo work, will draw him back into that ring even though this Rick Rubin-produced collection demonstrates the younger Dylan is still distinctively his own musician. Like Rubin's work with Johnny Cash, Seeing Things is mostly guitar and voice, songs stripped to just lyrics and melody, Dylan's visions charged with war and apocalypse.