>> Thursday, September 20, 2012
I've been listening to Tempest, the new Dylan album a little. Not enough to say a whole lot about it, or anything profound, least of all.
But I do have to admit: I think I kind of like Dylan's new old man stuff more than his old young stuff. (Ahem.) Don't misunderstand me: I loves me some classic Dylan, first off, and (secondly) there's no way that Dylan's current stuff could ever approach the earthshatteringness, the groundquakingness of something like Highway 61 Revisited or any of those classics.
The thing about that latter point is exactly what's problematic, though. Dylan can't be as game-changing now as he was in his twenties or thirties because nobody can be: this kid named Bob Dylan already did that stuff, already shook everything up. David Bowie has the exact same problem, right? You're never going to be as radical and innovative as you were when you were young because, well, sort of paradoxically, you already were that innovative. You can't do it again, it's been done, you did it.
But what you can do, if you're lucky--and this gets back to the second paragraph, supra, is you can have a good time doing what you can. Dylan, these days, sounds loose. Sounds like a really great musician who's had his glory days and is more than happy to just kick back and be natural. Something to be said for that; no: there's really almost everything to be said to that. Back to the second paragraph, exactly: Bob Dylan these days is really just a lot more consistently fun to listen to these days, even if he isn't shining nearly as brilliantly as maybe he did all those years ago.
I don't know that hardcore Dylan fans grok this, ironically. I was listening to a Slate podcast a couple of weeks ago, where they were talking about Tempest (this was part of what inspired me to download the album from Amazon, matter-of-fact), and there was a good bit of navel-gazing about whether Tempest was, I dunno exactly how they put it, I think they were trying to get at whether Tempest was relevant or Dylan was relevant or whether he was still doing important work or work that said anything or whether the only reason anyone would listen to this was because they were old, they were Baby Boomers and this was Dylan and was he saying anything to kids now who were as young today as the folks talking about Dylan were young then--you know, a whole bunch of horseshit in that kind of vein, really. And I couldn't help thinking as I was listening to them prattle that, crazy as it might be, I really think I'd rather take "Love And Theft" on a roadtrip than Blonde On Blonde; not because there's any way on Earth "Love And Theft" is a more vital record or essential record or important record than Blonde On Blonde, or even a better record than Blonde On Blonde. But because I'd just really rather listen to "Love And Theft" almost any day of the week over Blonde On Blonde. I don't know if I could even totally articulate why I'd rather listen to "Love And Theft", so, you know, if you want to question that for whatever dumb reason, fuck you, that's why I'd rather listen to "Love And Theft" than Blonde On Blonde, okay? That's why.
So, anyway, I haven't had a lot of time to listen to Tempest, but it's in that vein. Dylan swings, he grooves, he screws around a little. It isn't Dylan ca. 1966 (or The Beatles ca. '67; or David Bowie in... enh, we'll go with 1980; or Beastie Boys ca. 1989; or Beck ca. '96; or Radiohead ca. 2000; or, I dunno, Jack White ca., what?, yesterday maybe), but what is? That may not be good enough for you. Me, I think I might give it a couple of spins 'round the hard drive tonight.
POSTSCRIPT: Oh yeah, I can't tell you how much I fucking hate the new Blogger interface. I'm finally stuck with it. It's shit. If you're using Blogger, you know what I'm talking about. I hate to complain about something that's free--though it's also not quite as "free" as it might seem superficially, seeing as how I'm adding value to the Google Empire with every post; but the ugly facts are, this thing is now counterintuitive, hard to use, and just a general pain in the ass.
If you tried reading this post while I drafted this postscript, you suffered a symptom of that shittiness: I've gotten used, over the years I've been blogging here, to drafting posts in Blogger's HTML mode because--as hard as it can be to use, and as pain-in-the-ass as it can be to learn even the little bit of code you need--it just makes formatting so much easier to be able to do it yourself instead of using a GUI and hoping the interface will understand where you want a space to go or how you want a link to work. Apparently, though, Google wants you using their shitty, half-assed, underpowered wordprocessor "Compose" mode, so now when you try to draft in HTML mode it can seriously fuck your formatting up unless you're especially scrupulous with typing in your breaks--which you didn't have to do, previously. You could just hit the return and the HTML interface, name notwithstanding, treated it like a carriage return. (For you kids: "carriage return" was how we used to describe what you call the "return" or "enter" key on a machine called a "typewriter"--look it up.)
This is seriously going to chafe me, man.