Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Music Notes: Bob Dylan still the best at what he does, but new album not his best

Bob Dylan - Together Through Life

In comics, Wolverine is known as "the best there is at what he does." In music, that's Bob Dylan. He's our self-regenerating, feral-raged, uncaged animal, who has withstood every chaos he's faced. And he pretty much does what he wants.

So there's no such thing as 'bad' when it comes to a new Dylan album, but Together Through Life doesn't nearly hit the marks his recent batch of acclaimed hits have (Time Out of Mind, Love & Theft, Modern Times).

But since it's Dylan, it ain't stale either. It's just a decidedly more sobering affair, particularly thanks to the Los Lobos guy (David Hidalgo) steaming all 10 songs up with his accordion. And sure, the accordian is a fitting accessory to these songs, but it's Dylan's warped, soul-stained crackle that keeps these songs breathing.

The album has a few bright moments, like the bluesy dirge "My Wife's Home Town." But in the end, this isn't a must-have Dylan album. And considering how many must-have albums this ol' coot has coughed up, time and time again, you'd be a snot to tell him to hang it up.

But seriously, Bob. Let's forget the tunes a while and get to that next edition of your autobiography, Chronicles II. That's where you've really switched on your brightest later life lights.

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