by Bob Dylan
Well folks, a new Bob Dylan album has been released and you know what that means: Music critics are cranking up the hyperbole machinery in order to reassure us that a venerable cultural icon has still got it. This usually takes the form of sentiments like "his best work since X", or similar invocations of his storied catalog. Where Modern Times will ultimately end up in the pantheon of Dylan's oeuvre is anybody's guess, but I am tempted to consign it to the mid-to-lower echelon at this point. Especially when compared to its immediate predecessor, 2001's Love and Theft. For a start, the latter had more compelling and varied grooves played by a tighter, more musically adventurous band and more committed (albeit more ragged) vocals by the Man. Lyrically, Bob's as opaque as ever, but his ideas seemed more portentous on "Love and Theft" by virtue of his startling vocal presence on that earlier release. And Modern Times is a L-O-N-G album comprising L-O-N-G songs, that frequently flirt with tedium. On the other hand, lest I seem too negative about the new arrival, I do like several of the album's tunes quite a lot including "Spirit on the Water" which has an interesting chord progression that doesn't wear out its welcome over the song's 7:42 length and Dylan's reinvention of the 19th Century folksong "Nettie Moore", where his singing is drenched in regret. And finally, the album convinces you there is valid reason for its existence and what it has to say, in contrast to most of the self-indulgent, cookie-cutter, singer-songwriter musings of recent memory.
by Bob Dylan