From the stage, The Wallflowers still inspire
Headlights and Collectionsby Andrea Warner
For millions of Wallflowers fans, particularly those who were teenagers in 1996, Jakob was the only Dylan who mattered. "Bob who?" girls would ask, resigning the folk icon responsible for "Blowin' in the Wind," the real face of the 1960s, to that of glorified sperm donor.
For those fans, Jakob was the first Dylan to take up permanent residency in the CD player. Every word from the lead singer's lips was a smoky promise that shone with sex appeal. As Jakob got the girls' hearts a'fluttering, the Wallflowers' breakthrough album, the platinum-selling Bringing Down the Horse, etched itself into their brains far more permanently than the periodic table or the Ten Commandments. The album sold over six million copies worldwide.
But it wasn't just the hormone-hampered who worshipped the Wallflowers: older fans found comfort in Bob's progeny too, flocking to the young singer-songwriter like he was the second coming of folk-rock angst. Despite Jakob's deliberate avoidance of any political underpinnings on Horse, his father's fans sought him out, finding a guy with a gift for melody, a more tuneful, pop-rock version of their rebel-yell idol.
But, for a short guy, Bob Dylan casts a long shadow, and for Jakob, his father's legacy has been inescapable. Most of Jakob's first interviews for The Wallflowers were based solely on the importance of his last name. For the most part, Jakob's taken wide circles around any such questions, attempting to subtract his father from the equation.
Thirteen years after Horse's huge success, he's still not talking, refusing to do any press for this reunion tour. What time has shown The Wallflowers, in terms of major label success, is that sometimes one really good album breaks a career even while it's making you a star. Everyone can still hum The Wallflowers' hit single "One Headlight" but almost no one can tell you the name of the band's last album. (It was 2005's Rebel, Sweetheart, for the curious out there.)
Following Horse, The Wallflowers experienced numerous stops and starts, ultimately releasing three more albums, all of which underperformed compared to the hit albatross around their neck. Ultimately the band left Interscope in 2005, and Jakob embarked on solo efforts, spending last summer on the road in support of his album, Seeing Things.
And then suddenly this year, the band regrouped, setting out on a cross-country summer tour in support of their new album Collected: 1995-2006. The track list boasts the five best songs from Horse, including the ode to New York romances gone awry, "Sixth Avenue Heartache" (with Adam Duritz from Counting Crows), and the classic slow burn of "Invisible City," which laments, "feeling pretty is so hard." Listening to Collected's other songs only goes to show just how early The Wallflowers peaked. The two previously unreleased songs, "God Says Nothing Back" and "Eat You Sleeping," are tepid soft rock exercises.
Despite the hit-and-miss collection, The Wallflowers' reputation for a genuinely inspired live show lives on. Catching the slow curl of the guitar wrapping its way around the driving drum beat on the opening bars from "One Headlight" is just enough to melt many self-respecting women back into teenage girls. And, when Jakob takes the stage and lets loose his throaty purr, prepare yourself to start asking, "Bob who?" all over again.