One look into those incandescent eyes and you know that Wallflowers frontman Jakob Dylan’s waters run deep. But boy, are those waters ever still. The diffident pop pinup showed more life on his last album, the multiplatinum 1996 smash Bringing Down the Horse. Here on his third, the lead Wallflower sounds as if he wouldn’t bother crossing the room to ask the prettiest girl to dance. And his lack of enthusiasm for these 11 songs is all too contagious.
The opening track, “Letters from the Wasteland,” shows promise, but the title’s literary allusion turns out to be all tease and no payoff. The next track, “Hand Me Down,” could be a commentary on being the son of you-know-who, but the opaque lyrics (“You feel good and you look like you should/ But you won’t ever make us proud”) are delivered passionlessly. Despite a catchy lyric couplet (“Cupid don’t draw back your bow/ Sam Cooke didn’t know what I know”), “Sleepwalker” rides a beat you’ll want to nod—not bang—your head to. Michael Penn, who coproduees, may be part of the problem. Like Dylan, Penn is a tuneful singer-songwriter fond of languid arrangements. He too knows the glare of secondhand celebrityhood (his brother is actor Sean). Maybe that’s why this CD lacks fire—Penn and Dylan may both be too shy to burn bright.
Bottom Line: Wallflower sits this one out