Bob Dylan released a new record last week. It’s called Tempest. It’s the 35th studio album released by the singer-songwriter. Lots of people think Bob Dylan is the greatest American songwriter of all time. I happen to think he’s overrated; I think he was a product of the ’60s that was given way too much respect for someone who lacked talent both as a lyricist and vocalist. His pedantic lyrics are complete bullshit. Hell, on “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again” there’s an audible cut/edit in the middle of a line (it’s at the 2:43 mark if you want to hear it). It’s like Dylan figured, “Let’s just merge THAT independent thought with THIS independent thought, even though they’re unrelated. Nobody’s going to question me. None of my lyrics make sense.”
Don’t get me started on the harmonica. I can more easily listen to Merzbow than I can a harmonica.
Tempest, by the way, is atrocious. It’s the kind of record that is so bad it makes me wonder who is more insane, the guy who wrote the horrible songs or the people who smiled and nodded along the way, telling him that what he he was doing was good. Musically there is absolutely nothing unique about it. Rolling Stone magazine managed to call it both, “musically varied and full of curveballs” while also praising its traditional music influences. So, I guess, traditional music is full of curveballs. Have four-chord progressions that repeat over and over again and those ABAB verses gone so far out-of-style that now hearing a song as basic as that is considered a CURVEBALL?
“Lyrically, Dylan is at the top of his game, joking around, dropping wordplay and allegories that evade pat readings and quoting other folks’ words like a freestyle rapper on fire…” – Will Hermes, Rolling Stone
Is that “freestyle rapper on fire” remark an allusion to Dylan’s voice? Because…it sounds like his lungs are filling up with fluid and he might not make it to the end of the song. It sounds like he needs to clear his throat. For the entire album. All 68-plus minutes. He sounds like he might be experiencing congestive heart failure. Are we sure Dylan even survived the recording sessions? Anyone?
Oh, and the lyrics. They’re so bad. I can’t believe people think these are any good. Here are some real gems:
“Drivin’ the spikes in / Blazin’ the rails / Nailed to their coffins / Top hats and tails / Fly away over / Fly away flap your wings / Fly by night.” – Early Roman Kings. Oh. Okay. “Fly by night.” Been listening to a lot of Rush lately, Bob?
“It’s now or never / More than ever / When I met you I didn’t think you’d do / It’s soon after midnight / And I don’t want nobody but you.” Is this a Bob Dylan song or a fifteen year old girl’s diary?
Tin Angel contains 28 verses. All of them have an AABB rhyming pattern. You could pretty much isolate any four lines and say, “Okay, that’s pretty stupid,” but when you combine them all to get that 28-verse SONG you realize…this is not just stupid, it’s lazy, it’s middling, and if I wanted to hear about a guy named Henry Lee I’d listen to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.
“Shake it up baby, twist and shout / You know what it’s all about” – Yeah, I liked that scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off where he’s lip-syncing to the Beatles, too.
Speaking of which, there’s a song about John Lennon on this record called “Roll On John” that is atrocious. “From the Liverpool docks to the red-light Hamburg streets / Down in the quarry with the quarrymen / Playing to the big crowds, playing to the cheap seats / Another day in the life on your way to your journey’s end.” Really, Bob? A reference to The Quarrymen? And you used quarry and quarrymen in the same line? Oh, brother. The only thing I can think of worse than that would be if you started a verse in the middle of a song about John Lennon with the line, “I heard the news today, oh boy.” What’s that? You do that on this song? I see what you did there, Bob. It’s not so much clever as it is…retarded.
Then, of course, we get to the title track. The 45-verse, 14-minute EPIC about the sinking of the Titanic. Which is not only the worst Bob Dylan song I’ve ever heard in my entire life, it’s probably one of the ten worst songs I’ve ever heard, period. The melody is unchanging for the entire fourteen minutes. It’s just senile old Bob telling a story based on a James Cameron movie. It’s not even like he’s telling the story of the ACTUAL TITANIC. He’s telling the story about the Titanic IN A MOVIE ABOUT THE TITANIC. There isn’t just one verse about Leonardo DiCaprio in this song — which is silly because Leonardo DiCaprio wasn’t on the Titanic — this song contains at least five verses about LEONARDO DICAPRIO’S CHARACTER IN THE JAMES CAMERON TITANIC MOVIE. If Bob Dylan had real human feelings I think he would feel shame listening back to this song. Alas, Bob Dylan has no human emotions, so I have to feel ashamed for him.
“Leo took his sketchbook / He was often so inclined / He closed his eyes and painted / The scenery in his mind.”
Bob Dylan. Tempest. Embarrassing. Hilarious. Awful. What the fuck.
Leonard Cohen – Suzanne [Mono] [MP3]