Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Together Through Modern Times


This is cross-posted from One Year In Texas

The album Together Through Life felt like watching Woody Allen act in Picking Up the Pieces alongside Andy Dick and Fran Drescher, and liking it. Sure, he had already done Small Time Crooks, but that was in the past right? And David Schwimmer was in the prime of his career! It was something I anticipated (admittedly much less so [than Together Through Life that is) and it left me with the uncomfortable task of having to apologize for when the crap that was on the screen (metaphorically) hit my grandmother’s cerebral cortex (my grandfather had fallen asleep before the movie started). Even the most challenging and interesting songs on this album are drooping with schmaltz, which I recently learned is a real thing (pure animal fat used for cooking…). Case in point - Life is Hard. It is the only song on the album that I didn’t feel like I heard at the Cajun Fest’ in Amana, Iowa, bobbing back and forth with my deep-fried corn on the cob (seriously) next to drunken hay-bailers, dream-catcher dealers and biker chicks widowed by Army Reservists (and my wife and child, and I honestly enjoyed Cajun Fest’ [and deep-fried corn on the cob]…). But still I felt like it didn’t say anything that Bob didn’t already say better on Oh Mercy.

I saw that Jolene was on the track-list and was actually excited to hear a Dolly Parton cover for the first time since I camped out in front of the theater at the opening of The Bodyguard. Alas, even though it was not an actual cover it felt like a fake cover of something not even worth covering. “Baby I am the King and you is the Queen”.

At this point I want to put in the disclaimer in rock criticism that I have always been waiting to read but have not yet seen – that no matter how harsh my criticism is, I can never make anything worthy of licking the nose of this album or even the worst album that Bob Dylan has ever done (and this is still far from that). This is an amazing contribution to the art form of music and will change the landscape of… you get the idea.

But still, is Hell really your wife’s home town Bob Dylan? Jeez she sounds pretty awful then. Or are we supposed to feel sorry for her? I can’t tell because I was too busy shaking my hips to the twelve bar blues.

I like the idea of having to walk right if I ever go to Houston. But when he started talking about when if I ever go to Dallas, I could only think about Patrick Duffy and Larry Hagman and about how I better pioneer the TV series Dream Season.

Beyond Here Lies Nothin’, Forgetful Heart and It’s All Good are all brooding, foreboding and existential in scope. But at the same time they’re all smaller than what Dylan accomplished with his last three albums. It’s All Good may deal with the end of the world, but it does it in a way that makes it sound like a 70-something-year-old man is trying to communicate in a hip manner with teenagers, and not in a cute way like when he referenced Alicia Keyes in Thunder on the Mountain. Beyond Here and Forgetful Heart deal with powerful issues but they come out through the device of romantic melodrama. And that’s hard to get past. Especially since he didn’t make us get past anything with recent doomful tomes like Aint Talkin’ and High Water.

So this was a horrible disappointment. But still a great album. And by far the best album of 2009! I can’t wait to see Dylan live one more time. Stay alive Bob! I loved the album, really.

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