Sunday, August 12, 2007
Aiyiyi. What to make of this. The Jewish Minnesotan Bob Dylan, in his early 40s, embraces Christianity, along with a penchant for fundamentalist religious language: Satan, martyrs, shame, doom, the names of the books of the Old Testament Bible, and such-like frequent his lyrical drone all too depressingly often. With this album the story at the time was that he was stepping away from that, and there's proof enough in the grooves – "Sweetheart Like You" is practically bawdy, "Don't Fall Apart on Me Tonight" could not possibly be addressed to the Messiah, and "Union Sundown" is a lament for the labor movement that is remarkably, affectingly bitter. But it's clumy and self-righteous too. Painful political allegories populate this landscape like cactus in the desert and the cant of a religious zealot remains unmistakable. In spite of a good band – a great band, in fact: Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, Mick Taylor, Mark Knopfler, and Alan Clark, with production by Knopfler – the fundamentalist impulse often goes front and center. Or maybe that's just the sound of an insecure man having a mid-life crisis? Happens even to the best of us. Case in point. So sure, of course, you have to forgive the guy such lapses. How could you not? It's just, that language and its many vile biases are still hard to hear, now that we know his one-time pals have not been joking about their apocalypse and whatnot. "Oh, man has invented his doom First step was touching the moon." Again, good grief.