Don’t get me wrong– one day I might acquire the new Bob Dylan album, but I won’t be buying it. Maybe my hipster parents will deign to pick up a copy at some point. Then maybe I can copy theirs. Not that I do that sort of thing. But, you know. Just in case the mood strikes. But I doubt it will.
Here’s the thing: Bob Dylan is the shit. Not shit. The shit. He will always be. But it’s like… remember when everyone thought Keith Richards snorted his father’s ashes? And we were all, like, “holy fuck, Keith Richards, why are you such a heartless… wow, like, whyyyy?” But then he gave this pretty serious interview where he seemed to very honestly say that, no, he did not in fact snort his father. And then you sort of realized that you were almost disappointed? And you wanted to say, “dude, you’re supposed to be the badass mysterious one that can’t even give two fucks!”
They’re losing their edge, or something. I don’t know, because I am not an old man, but aren’t they supposed to become more crotchety in their old age? Bob Dylan used to perform with his back to his audience, basically giving a metaphorical middle finger (and literal one, too, I’d bet) to all those folk-loving flower people who actually paid to see his tiny ass.
Seriously, the dude was so skinny.
Now, though he still graces the audience with very few words, he definitely does face the crowd. I know because I saw him live about two years ago. He looked sort of cranky in an endearing way, but he also looked like he was being paid to look cranky. What gives?He spent so much time building up this persona for himself that I wanted to see the real, cranky, old-man-ass side of Dylan.
And there I was looking at his damn face.
Bob Dylan has turned so, erm, half circle, that he’s now even singing on his albums. “Say quoi?!” you say. “Mais, oui,” say I. You say he’s been doing that all along? puh-leeze. No, in the beginning he was pretty much just talking, and somehow the timbre of his voice managed to sync up with the tune of his songs. And it was brilliant. I mean, Dylan’s early stuff is kind of miraculous. Like, really, your voice sounds like the coal engine of a train and yet you’re making songs, and they’re totally beautiful?
Now he’s wheeze-singing in a way that makes you feel like he should just go fucking live with Garrison Keillor in Lake Woe and they can live happily ever after with their noses whistling when they breathe.
I’m embarrassed for him, to be honest. Not to the point where he’s like a particularly drool-y great-grandfather that you don’t want your friends to meet because he’ll pinch all their bottoms, but like an uncle who tends to just drone on about ‘Nam but also has some awkward stories about smoking weed and getting laid in the good old days because he wants you to think he’s “a cool dude.” But actually that uncle’s more rare stories, the ones he used to tell all the time, like the slightly self-deprecating ones about striking out with women and the actual raw emotional ones about the crazy shit he’s seen, make him far more hip.
The title track of Dylan’s new album is about the sinking of the Titanic, a ballad of epic poetic proportions along the lines of his 70s ‘Hurricane’ or ‘Desolation Row’… if you’re just comparing sheer runtime of the songs. I’ll leave lyrical interpretation and analysis to you, especially because I haven’t actually listened to ‘Tempest,’ but suffice it to say that my cursory research of its lyrics leaves me pessimistic.
Look, I love Bob Dylan. I promise! I own a leopard skin pillbox hat, so leave me the hell alone.
But maybe that’s why I will not be buying his new album. You love family, but as a courtesy, you don’t hang around just watching your uncle turn into a bumbling war orator that no one wants to hear. Don’t you owe it to him to preserve your memories of him as an eloquent reminiscer of more meaningful things?
Or do you owe it to yourself to listen, just in case he imparts some piece of wisdom?