1996, Music

Bringing Down the Horse (1996) by The Wallflowers

I think my brother had this album but I don’t think I ever made it far enough into his CD collection before I got to it. I had, um, zero interest. Once I was interested in the contemporary stuff he owned I certainly wasn’t interested in Dylan’s son.

That single was everywhere. I must have seen the Pop-Up Video at least 10 times. But I never had any interest in finding out more, the wrong music at the wrong time, I guess.

Dylan is not like his father as a songwriter. (Who is? Imagine the pressure trying to write lyrics as the son of the greatest lyricist of the 20th century in the English language.) As many others have pointed out he has a lot more in common with Springsteen, albeit maybe a more confessional Springsteen. That’s a wise decision because it makes it less likely for assholes like me to compare the two. It’s a good decision to not try to be your father, especially when Bob Dylan’s your father.

His sense of melody is good. Though “One Headlight” is far and away the catchiest song here most of the other songs are catchy enough.

Dylan’s voice is somewhere between Tom Petty’s and his father’s, but closer to Petty’s. (I think the comparison to Petty’s voice and aesthetic are fair – Mike Campbell is here! – but I think the Petty songwriting comparison is a little weirder.) Occasionally you really hear his dad, in the odd enunciation, but not very off, which is a good thing.

The aesthetic is that of the polished ’90s-roots-rock-posing-as-alternative. They’re not that far off Counting Crows albeit without the Laurel Canyon/Mellow Mafia vibe. These are guys are more roots than the Counting Crows and less pop, but otherwise inhabit a similar space. It’s not a space I enjoy. (You could also argue they’re like a less gritty, country ish/folk ish version of the Black Crowes but with far better songs.) At the same time as these records were being made, all around the US (and, probably, the world) other bands were also embracing American roots music but doing so in much more interesting and fun ways. (A list of these bands would make this review way too long.) Knowing these other bands exist makes it harder to get why people celebrated these softer, safer bands so much.

The album is also too longer for its lack of variation. I don’t think the songs are quite the problem, I think it’s more the singular aesthetic – safe roots rock. Of course, if Dylan was a better songwriter, that would be less of a problem. And if this band was more fun, I might like the songs more.


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