Go ahead. Try to talk sh** about Jakob Dylan. You know right when he walks in you’ll be palms sweaty, stomach heaving up and down, smiling and glowing, hanging on his every word and waiting to give him your number.
Go ahead. Try to call him nepotistic, spoiled, born on third, bland, the beneficiary of a ’90s commercial boom, untested, thin. But I guarantee if you come across his boots in real life, part of your heart will go back to the first time you heard “One Headlight” and that dark, melancholy realness it transmitted to you, a light that otherwise would still be mired in the darkness and pretension of the everyday machinations of our society. I guarantee you your mental framework will scroll back to “6th Avenue Heartache” and how it made all the lights in New York shine a little brighter, and seem like more than just metal, plastic and finite wattage.
So yeah, I’m a little bit petulant, you might say. But Jakob Dylan is, too, actually, for what that’s worth. Exit Wounds is music that does not operate at the pace of 2021. We are wading into a narcotic bath here of complete clarity, a glimpse of life amidst the living and concern with the living with no incentives for speed or gain.
And sure, it is The Wallflowers. They get by on songwriting, with an especial emphasis on deliberate genuineness that seems to bleed with this anachronistic and spatially displaced (seeing as Mr. Dylan is a quasi-willing Big Apple denizen) emotion. And no, the guitar solo in “I Hear the Ocean (When I Wanna Hear Trains)” is hardly Toy Caldwell or Dwayne Allman. In fact, it’s probably incorrect to even call it the climax of the song.
But I’ve made it to “The Dive Bar in My Heart” at this point of my listen, finding it to just jostle the feathers of uniformity just enough to keep things fresh, with almost charming margiinality, at that, and have not only not heard bad song but also have not in any way sensed or smelled anything that smacked of rehash or contrivance, which is more than I can say for our modest, mousey brethren in 2021. Exit Wounds seems like the record that Jakob Dylan had in the back of his mind during Bringing down the Horse, an album that hinted at this aching, lilting rockabilly with tuneful nuggets like “Invisible City” and “Josephine.” Exit Wounds treads down similar tracks to those, in a sense, with the production stripped down from the mainstream-minded T Bone Burnett bombast, favoring slide steel on the excellent “Maybe Your Heart’s Not in it No More” and Hammond organ that acts as more of a textural backdrop than virtuosic fanfare. To be honest, I have no idea if The Wallflowers have any common members to their mid-’90s lineup today and let’s be honest, it doesn’t really matter: this has always seemed like Dylan’s solo act with a backing band, not unlike his dad’s concept and the accompanying “The Band,” really. This music is, by and large, the result of Mr. Jakob Dylan and an ideal he carries his mind of scoffing in the face of the idea of music as product. And I don’t care that he’s in The Wallflowers and they sold into platinum status: to say that denigrates the art is to insult all those everyday people who connected with the pain and genuineness in the music. It’s the same mistake Jim Derogatis made about Hootie & the Blowfish and Natalie Merchant, the difference being that back then outlets like radio and MTV were a little more equipped to promote and transmit this foray into the blushing, guileless human heart.