It usually takes a few listens for a new Bob Dylan album to sink in, so a week from now I might be raving about “Modern Times.” Right now, though, I’m a little disappointed.
A couple of days ago I, uh, obtained an MP3 version of the album, which doesn’t come out until next week. I’ve listened to it all the way through just once, but my first reaction is that it sounds like leftovers from 2001’s “‘Love and Theft.'”
The song that’s got me hopping right now is “Rollin’ and Tumblin’.” But it doesn’t sound any different from the Muddy Waters original, except that Muddy could sing better. Dylan does add some new lines, like “Some young lazy slut has charmed away my brains,” which all the critics, including the Boston Globe’s Joan Anderman, are making sure to include in their reviews.
“Thunder on the Mountain,” “Someday Baby,” and the downbeat “Nettie Moore” and “Ain’t Talkin'” are all promising, and Dylan’s wreck of a voice at least sounds no worse than it did five years ago. But none of the songs stands out like “Tweedledum & Tweedledee” or “High Water,” both from “‘Love and Theft.'” And let’s not even try comparing “Modern Times” to his transcendent 1997 comeback, “Time Out of Mind.”
For an absolutely hilarious review of “Modern Times,” check out Alex Petridis in the Guardian. He manages to give it four stars (out of five) while still getting in a few shots, at his fellow critics as much as at Zimmy. It’s very British. For example:
Certainly, Dylan has enjoyed an artistic renaissance, in that he published a fantastic autobiography and stopped releasing records that made you want to rip your own head off with embarrassment — but that alone isn’t enough to explain the mania that greets his every action. Perhaps it is linked to his 1997 brush with pericarditis and intimations of mortality; praise him unequivocally now, while he can still read it.
Andy Gill’s song-by-song breakdown in the Independent is worth reading, too.
The MP3 version I’ve got is pretty murky, so I’m looking forward to picking up the CD. It’s may not be great Dylan, but on first blush it sounds like pretty good Dylan. And, yes, that’s good enough for me.