It has become painfully obvious to my ears during the listening of Together Through Life that Bob Dylan has shriveled into a completely unlistenable artist. I don't even know what the hell it is that I'm listening to. I do know that it has earned the lowest rating of anything I have bothered to review before: a 3.4 out of 10. I feel as though I am on a train, listening to a band of drunken hobo stowaways that are picking tobacco out of their teeth. The fact is this: Dylan is recording past the point of his musical importance.
This is not to say that Bob Dylan should stop recording. A legend of his stature and resume should be able to do whatever he wants. He's earned it. This is more about reviewers tripping over their own lips as they press them to his cheeks. Come on, guys. Be honest with yourselves and the reader. You can't possibly think that this album deserves 4 stars or above, maybe out of 10 but not out of 5. I would assume that these major (and obsolete) rock magazines just find the one reviewer on their staff that is so hopelessly sentimental that they can't help but give the latest album by whatever “legendary” artist a glowing review. They couldn't possibly be honest and risk hurting these dinosaurs' feelings. I'm looking at you, David Fricke.
The problem is that the majors put artists like Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, and Dylan on pedestals above contemporaries (Lou Reed, David Bowie, or Black Sabbath) even though the latter's music has meant far more to my generation, directly or otherwise. That is not to say that Reed and Bowie haven't made some clunkers. They certainly have. But the magazines have even dismissed truly interesting albums like Bowie's 1995 concept album, Outside. It received no airplay anywhere outside Downers Grove, IL's 88.3 and that's because I played it a ton on my show. Sorry that it didn't have any real radio hits but it was a strong album, brilliantly produced with studio genius Brian Eno. And it doesn't stop with the old timers. The writing scene is littered with pieces and reviews on newer bands they are told to like by record companies and highly placed hipsters. I suppose I can't say it is all the writers' fault because they are dictated to as well. Again, I'm looking at you, David Fricke.
So, again, no disrespect to Bob Dylan. He is a true legend but let's not let that cloud his contemporary output. Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player of all-time but when he played for the Washington Wizards, he was a shell of his former self. Just keep things in perspective and keep your standards high. Just because an artist like Bob Dylan belongs on the Mount Rushmore of rock and roll doesn't make everything he does gold. On the other hand, you can't give him a pass just because he's old. You have to look at a record as its own entity. And maybe it isn't my or anyone else's place to judge someone else's art. But I know what I like, and this sure as hell wasn't it.
Here are some other more favorable ratings that I was too lazy to write full reviews of:
A.C. Newman: Get Guilty – 8.15
John Fruciante: The Empyrean – 6.3
M. Ward: Hold Time – 7.42
Andrew Bird: Noble Beast – 8.28
Mastodon: Crack The Skye – 7.79
Revolting Cocks: Sex-O Olympic-O – 6.44
Dark Was The Night : A Red Hot Compilation – 7.65
Lacuna Coil: Shallow Life – 8.11
Camera Obscura: My Maudlin Career – 8.23
Neko Case: Middle Cyclone – 8.07
Yeah Yeah Yeahs: It's Blitz – 8.20
Iggy Pop: Préliminaires – 7.67
PJ Harvey & John Parish – A Woman A Man Walked By – 7.15