Monday, September 04, 2006

Modern Times

Dylan is back. And more Dylan that ever. Some are labelling this new piece the third installment of a trilogy that begun with 1997's Time Out of Mind and 2001's Love and Theft. The three represent a huge return to form, and Modern Times may well be the best of the lot.
"I don't see myself as a political activist, I see myself as more of a song and dance man", he was quoted in 1965, but here it seems he has managed to merge the two into a cohesive whole. Modern Times is the title from Charlie Chaplin's silent film about Nazi Germany, and, as with much throughout Dylan's vast career, it is unlikely the title selection is a coincidence. This is a record steeped in history - indeed, the songs take their cues directly from 50's rock, swing, jazz, country and blues - yet their tone, in a most subtle way, is astonishingly contemporary, a gentle dig at the modern world via a glowing reminiscence of simpler times.
Dylan actually wrote a flat-out love song (the leisurely 'Spirit on the Water')harking back to a simple life and a simple love, enhancing the sensation that 'Modern Times' are losing their quaintness and appeal. Throughout, music that in lesser hands would seem dated and stale is brought to vivid life through the (naturally) sharp lyrics and Dylan's, new, old man growl, so full of character that you wonder how he ever sung before all the cigarettes got to him.
Bob Dylan is back in form, in a big way.


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