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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Give it up, man: Bob Dylan falls short on Tempest

    Olivier Douliery
    Rock legend Bob Dylan looks on during the Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, May 29, 2012. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)

    I hate to break it to you all, but Bob Dylan doesn’t respect you. If I was any more tactful and any less sadistic I would end the review there, because outside of a select few songs that sentiment pretty much sums up this record. Forgive my bluntness, but I wanted you to hear it from me. The rumors are true. Bob Dylan has made another terrible, self-important album devoid of any melodies or lyrics truly worth your time, and he thinks you’re going to love it. After a decade of creative uselessness (sans his incredible 2009 Christmas album), humorlessness, and countless 12-bar blues songs, he seriously expects you to think there’s anything different or unique about Tempest to justify his now fifty year career. “How do you know?” you might ask. “How can you be so sure?” Well, dear reader, feast your ears on “Duquesne Whistle.”

    “Duquesne Whistle” is one of Bob Dylan’s best songs in ages if only because Dylan appears to finally have figured out the only kind of song he has any business writing with such an exponentially decaying voice and lyrical ability. With its swing beat circa 1937, Dylan croons and croaks pedestrian lyrics about a train trip, his decrepit growl finally making him sound like the kind of old hobo he’s always wished he’d been. Meaningless lyrics or not, though, Dylan opens Tempest sounding more fun than he has since “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” from 1965, and the jazz guitar-laden affair tricks you into believing this album could be a blast. Even more confounding is that the album’s second track, “Soon After Midnight,” is almost as good! More on the tender, countryish side of things, “Soon After Midnight” similarly invokes hilariously awful rhymes right off the bat. Yet the old bastard sells with such sincerity in his voice that even though it drops all the freewheelin’ Bob Dylan fun of “Duquesne Whistle,” you could easily conclude that Tempest could very well be a late-career wonder. But it’s there I must stop you, dear reader, and assure you that the kindly and smiling 71-year old man (and his henchmen at Rolling Stone) is setting you up for one of the most painfully angering listening experiences of 2012. It’s all a trap.

    Behold the offensively long “Narrow Way”, a take on the same kind of three-chord blues he’s been throwing in your face since the 60s, which surely ranks among Dylan’s most ugly vocal performances not to mention the song’s astoundingly few lyrics worth a damn considering the seven minute running time. Then, surely for no other reason than because he thinks you’re stupid, he follows up that song with the chorus of “It’s a long and narrow way” with a track actually “Long and Wasted Years,” rubbing in your face just how formulaic he can be. Elsewhere there’s the one-chord snooze of “Scarlet Town” that singlehandedly reorients how pointless a seven minute song off Tempest can truly be, as well as “Early Roman Kings,” a half-assed song so obviously about the modern gangster culture he knows nothing about that to title it so Dylanesquely is insulting to the very fibers of your intelligence.

    Considering how useless so much of this album is, it’s all the more infuriating that like the first two tracks, Dylan’s much-written about ode to the Titantic wreck, the 14 minute Tempest, is actually rather enjoyable. Against all odds, the song’s lilting violin and buoyant rhythm ushers the album out on something of a high note, a ruthless attempt at distracting you from the dearth of melody and poetry anywhere else. I wish it wasn’t so, but it is: Bob Dylan just doesn’t love you anymore.

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