This summer, the Voice’s “Critical Voices” feature makes it’s way to the internet in a bold new way. We’ll be doing weekly album reviews and, thanks to the glory of the internet, you now have the immediate ability to listen to the music we’re promoting (or panning).
What better way to begin a discussion on a hip musical culture than to talk about a man completely in tune with the Voice’s basic ideologies of rebellion and drug usage: Bob Dylan. His newest venture into the world of sly rock’n’roll, Together Through Life, was released this past Tuesday on Columbia Records to favorable reviews, which doesn’t really mean anything credible in the world of Bob, as reviewers like to pat this man on the back for his dying efforts as he manages to somehow continue to put out music over 40 years after the quintessential Highway 61 Revisited.
Personally, I found pleasure in the fact that hype-machine Pitchfork made the effort to avoid acclaiming his newest release, as they ultimately came to the conclusion that “This guy’s pretty OK”. That means that thousands of 18-21 year olds will simple write this off in favor of the newest obscure, lo-fi hit recommended to them by a tight-pantsed individual that smokes a few too many Camel Lights.
But this isn’t a statement about the current state of music, this is a message to the general public that Bob Dylan still has it, despite what the American Apparel culture might try and tell you. Dylan’s venture into 1950’s Chicago blues may not be an authentic representation of Muddy Waters, but the mix of vintage Dylan lyricism (with a tinge of Grateful Dead’s Robert Hunter, who co-wrote the majority of the album’s lyrics) and his newly acquired Tom Waits impersonation plays a perfect backdrop to his band’s slick 12-bar, pentatonic scaling.
This album is simple, yet refreshing. Immediately embracing, opening track “Beyond Here Lies Nothing” perfects the collaboration of all things stated prior, with a steady accordion line holding it all together, while “Life is Hard” feels like a Rod Stewart ballad with more genuine intentions. Dissection of the musicianship from the yearning and aging man whose name graces the cover may lead to evidential fault, and show that no part of this album’s sound is particularly captivating, but erase all expectations of this being an album from the man that wrote “Like a Rolling Stone,” and you’ll find that this music has a trait that is missing from a lot of today’s music: it’s not difficult to get into, it’s purely genuine.
Take a trip down memory lane, head over to the man’s myspace, and check out the single “Beyond Here Lies Nothing,” and avoid comparing it to the songs that follow.