Looking For Alicia Keys

Notes on the new Dylan album:

Modern Times finally arrived in the mail yesterday, and I’ve been listening to it non-stop ever since. On first listen, it’s very mellow sounding, light and even pretty. There appears to be a lot of cynical darkness lurking in the lyrics, however. “Some young lazy slut has charmed away my brains” and “This woman so crazy I swear I ain’t gonna touch another one for years” are some fine examples from Rollin’ and Tumblin’.

The album generally has the same loud/soft/loud/soft pattern that Love And Theft followed, though the album as a whole flows very nicely, whether that’s a flaw of Dylan’s producing or, more likely, exactly the effect he was looking for I can’t say.

My favorite song on first listen was Workingman’s Blues #2, a deceptively pretty tune holding such lyrical gems as:

There’s an evenin’ haze settlin’ over town
Starlight by the edge of the creek
The buyin’ power of the proletariat’s gone down
Money’s gettin’ shallow and weak

My favorite moment on first listen, however, was in the song Nettie Moore, a melancholy balled whose first couple of minutes are punctuated by a slow insistent heartbeat drum. As the chorus begins, however, the music suddenly swells and the drum is taken over by what appears to be an actual string section. It comes as a complete surprise, which, in my foolishness, I didn’t think was possible for Dylan at this point. I don’t know if it’s possible, but I think I may have swooned.

The rollicking album opener, Thunder On The Mountain, has some fun lyrics, including this striking passage:

Gonna raise me an army, some tough sons of bitches
I’ll recruit my army from the orphanages
I been to St. Herman’s church, said my religious vows
I’ve sucked the milk out of a thousand cows

At this point, I’m thinking the album is akin to John Wesley Harding, in it’s smoothness, apparent simplicity and its relation to the albums that came before it (Love And Theft as Blonde on Blonde, Time Out Of Mind as Highway 61 Revisted).

I got the porkchops, she got the pie.
She ain’t no angel, and neither am I.

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