Feverishly rushed to my local Book-Record-stationary store today to grab the latest Dylan album, what with all of the critical hosannas. Halfway through the first song, I was asleep at the wheel; by track five, I was seething with anger and wondering what else my 13 bucks might have bought (the new Tortoise compilation?)
It is time, fawning Dylan rock critics, to lay down your pens and prick up your ears. What on earth are you hearing that I ain't? Modern Times is flyweight stuff for an artist of Dylan's stature, a light breeze that might kick open a screen door. This album reveals two unenlightening aspects of Dylan's musical character, circa now: He's listening to a lot of Hoagy Carmichael and Muddy Waters records. Two songs on the album are direct Waters lifts - a slightly reworked "Rollin' and Tumblin'" (OK, that's an old blues song of unknown provenance, but it's Waters' arrangement) and a slightly rejiggered 'Trouble No More" which Dylan has cleverly retitled "Someday Baby" (that'll fool 'em). Yet, scanning the jacket copy, I see no mention of Waters anywhere, just 'All songs written by Bob Dylan.' When is homage thievery?
As middling Dylan records go, it's not wholly offensive, like "Empire Burlesque" or "Under The Red Sky." But I think I'd rather listen to some abject failure like "Self-Portrait" than endure Dylan's newfound romance with torch songs. There's nothing more banal than a slumming genius. But maybe I just need to be convinced -- I felt the same way upon first hearing Love and Theft and I have affection for that record now - but perhaps you feel otherwise?