Trying To Get To You

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

It's Not Better Than "Disease Of Conceit?"

It’s December, which means the holiday season, parties, friends and family and (hopefully) some time off to rest and recharge for the coming year. But for another species of human being called “music geeks”, December means it’s time for the “best of the year” lists. I have no plans to do a best of 2006 list as of yet, and even if I was, I’m not ready to do it. But some are starting to trickle in, namely Uncut’s 50 best albums of the year list. Dylan’s Modern Times tops the list, which isn’t surprising, given the almost universal praise that the record is getting. The word “masterpiece” has been bandied about liberally. I’ve listened to the record around 10 times, and while I like it, sometimes very much, I can’t say that I’m in love with it. I enjoy all the songs, but I feel passion for none of them. But my favorite contrary word in the matter comes from my dear friend and fellow music geek John Franck via IM this morning:

JF: I like the Dylan record, it's a solid 3.5 star (out of 5) record

JF: Anyone who says it's better than Time Out Of Mind is stupid

JF: It's not even better than Side 1 of Oh Mercy

Well, there you have it. The gavel has struck.


NYCD Online said...

We all know that music is subjective, we like what we like, yada yada yada. But perhaps we'd be a little more simpatico to your feelings about "Modern Times" if you explained WHY you (or your friend) don't love it rather than just saying "I don't love it, and my friend doesn't either. So there." God knows we're guilty of the same thing on occasion, so it's a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Still, just thought we'd point it out.

Ben Lazar said...

Fair enough.

I haven't yet (underline yet) found the emotional depth in the record that would make me love it. Songs like "Lovesick," "Trying To Get To Heaven," and "Not Dark Yet" on Time Out Of Mind had an emotional urgency for me that I don't hear on Modern Times, with the possible exceptions of "When The Deal Goes Down," and "Workingman Blues." There's a feeling of playfulness on this record which I enjoy, but it just doesn't hit me viscerally or emotionally the way the best of Time Out Of Mind and Love And Theft did. That could all change's still in active rotation.

Anonymous said...

While Modern Times is certainly an enjoyable listen (no one's arguing that point), and shit, my feeling is, it's always a pleasure to get a GOOD Dylan album in any given year, my overall feeling towards it remains unchanged-- it lacks the depth, urgency and darkness of Time Out Of Mind and even Oh Mercy. While I've listened to Modern Times a good 2-dozen times, it has yet to MOVE me in the way songs like "Standing In The Doorway," "Tryin' To Get To Heaven," "Cold Irons Bound," or "Not Dark Yet" have. Not only are those stellar, not only are they IMPORTANT, they can be safely ranked in the top echelon of Dylan's songwriting cannon...and as we all know, that's a bar that's been set pretty damn high.

Critics will continue to lump Time Out Of Mind, Love & Theft and Modern Times together as some sort of Dylan trifeckta of greatness, or as companion pieces that are somewhat loosely linked. Truthfully, I doubt that Dylan had ever intended that way. While the 3 releases are sort of aesthetically-related, and certainly, that point's been made over and over by the worldwide press, I've always thought that if anything, Oh Mercy and Time out Mind DO have some sort of underlying continuity between them. Leaving Love & Theft out of the picture for a second (again, a much stronger album from start to finish than Modern Times), I will say that to its defense, Oh Mercy might be just as good as Modern Times. Apart from the train-wreck that is "Disease Of Conceit," take a moment to go back and re-visit under-appreciated gems like "Man In The Long Black Coat," "Most Of The Time," " What Was It You Wanted" (later beautifully covered by Willie Nelson) and "Ring Them Bells" which of all people, Heart (yes as in "Barracuda" Heart) nailed on their painful 1993 album, Desire Walks In with Alice In Chains on back-up vocals.

The world needs Dylan more than ever and in a year that's been somewhat underwhelming in quality of releases, the praise heaped on Modern Times won't stop. It'll only grow. It doesn't mean that the mob psychology that the press has put in motion will stand the test of time 10 years from now. Almost 10 years since its release, Time Out Of Mind is still collossal and will continue to be so. I don't think Modern Times will meet that same fate.

Soupercollider said...

Well done John. I almost don't like it as much as I did, now. And I mean that sincerely. You get caught up in the hype. Sometimes it's peer pressure. (see Ben's reviews of Aguilera & Gwen) But you make valid points.