Ultimately, Seeing Things is a sweet if slight delight.
Chris Jones 2008
It would be disingenuous to treat Jakob Dylan's first release as some kind of new attempt to muscle in on his dad's territory. Bob's youngest may not be a household name over here, but he's already approaching 40 and, with his band The Wallflowers, he's not only been making music since he was 20 but has also racked up two Grammys and five albums. Hardly a newcomer, then. But now in a kind of reverse career trajectory to his father, Jakob has gone back to his acoustic roots. Rather than sticking to his band's formula of melodic, foursquare college rock, he's gone to the man whose name is now becoming synonymous with getting songwriters to strip it all back to the bone and lay their souls bare. Unfortunately the law of diminishing returns that means that while Rubin worked alchemical magic with Johnny Cash, and at least toughened up Neil Diamond's image, Dylan's album is less notable.
It may be the raw material. For while there's nothing actually wrong with this folky, gritty album, it's lacking in that certain something. Seeing Things contains a fair amount of oblique political commentary concerning his nation's warmongering. First track Evil is Alive And Well speaks for itself and its follow-up, Valley Of The Low Sun states, "We'd feel much better if we sunk this treasure and laid our armour down". Meanwhile on On Up The Mountain he refers to men who, "bury each other in rows". But this is hardly Blowin' In The Wind. It's too cliche-ridden and its lack of bite can put you in mind of a gloomier Jack Johnson.
One of the album's highlights, Everybody Pays As They Go dispenses the kind of platitudes that make little impression but its prettiness still remains after the words have faded. It's these moments that are the best on the album; when Dylan lets the lovely melodies run free. Emulating the kind of dusty southern Americana of, say, Calexico, with brushed drums and sweet chorus lines, songs like Will It Grow show that his true vocation lies in making us sing along rather than dissect his syllables for profundity. Ultimately, Seeing Things is a sweet if slight delight.