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What did Bob Dylan know, and when did he know it?Bob Dylan’s got a new record coming out next month, and you should be terrified. Yes, the dude continues to make great music, but his past two studio albums were also Harbingers of Doom. Love and Theft was about America in flames, and then under water, and it was recorded in 2001 and released on September 11 of that rotten year. His next record, Modern Times, was released in the autumn of 2006 — it was named after a Depression-era Charlie Chaplin movie, as the stock market hit new heights and the housing bubble was just beginning to pop, and it was filled with grim songs of working people losing ground.

So what’s this one about? Alex Ross from the New Yorker has heard an advance copy of Together Through Life, and he says this:

The version I heard ended with the double whammy of “I Feel a Change Coming On” and “It’s All Good” — a pair that may cause listeners to detect a political undertow in this seemingly intimate, out-of-time affair. The chorus of the gorgeously lilting, almost Motown-like “I Feel a Change” could be heard as Obamaesque, although with a certain ambiguous regretfulness Dylan adds, “And the fourth part of the day is already gone.” (That’s apparently a reference to the Book of Nehemiah.) A Dylan album can’t end on such a half-hopeful note, of course. On the grimly boogeying “It’s All Good,” the singer dons a mask of lethal irony, surveying a ransacked social landscape and then adding, after each exhibition of desperation and decay, “It’s all good.” That smug little phrase has now been destroyed. Dylan’s protestations in the latest interview notwithstanding, some people may indeed come away thinking that the human race is doomed, although at least we go out with a crooked smile.

Oh shit.

UPDATE: Commenter ComradePaulson asks below, “When has Bob Dylan NOT been a harbinger of doom?” Let’s ask what’s-his-name, Wiki Joe Slim:

On September 22, Dylan appeared for the first time at Carnegie Hall, part of an all-star hootenanny. This show was his first public performance of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”[1], a complex and powerful song built upon the question and answer refrain pattern of the traditional British ballad “Lord Randall”, published by Francis Child.

One month later, on October 22, U.S. President John F. Kennedy appeared on national television to announce the discovery of Soviet missiles on the island of Cuba, initiating the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Whoops.

Together Through Life [BobDylan.com]

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66 COMMENTS

  1. When has Bob Dylan NOT been a harbinger of doom? “A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall?” “Talkin’ World War III Blues?” “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door?”

  2. [re=269891]comradepaulson[/re]: There was all that Jeebus stuff he did for a while. Yuck. Otherwise Dylan is a living god.

    One hopes he gargled some helium before recording the vocals, so his voice doesn’t sound like a window vibrating when a big truck goes by.

  3. Bob, you don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. It’s blowin’ towards hope, bitches. Get on your unicorn and ride to the sound of Earth, Wind and Fire. Ride to the rainbow!

  4. It is just a coincidence. The Rolling Stones released “Her Satanic Majesty’s Request” on December 7, 1941. Noone thinks that they are prophets.

  5. I though Alex Ross only covered classical music; I wonder why they have him doing Dylan?

    Must have lost a bet to Sasha Frere Jones.

    Also, since we’re doing revisionist lyrics: “Everybody must get boned.”

  6. [re=269895]V572625694[/re]: I actually like the Jeebus stuff, as long as I can ignore the content.

    “You could be Max Devlin, or you could be the Lord, but you’re gonna hafta serve somebody.”

    Please, brain, stop. I have work to do.

  7. On the grimly boogeying “It’s All Good,” the singer dons a mask of lethal irony, surveying a ransacked social landscape and then adding, after each exhibition of desperation and decay, “It’s all good.”

    This sentence makes me want to stab a room full of open-mic folk singers.

  8. [re=269904]One Yield Regular[/re]: On the Theme Time Radio Hour last week, Dylan had a fake caller complaining about how Dylan plays gospel songs on the show, and was told to just enjoy it because the singer believed it at the time. And then he said “Nobody complains when we play songs about murder.” It was funny.

  9. Ah zabada du ma, laka roolin stoo, ho maina tomsmu ta man bea mmn, eferyfin zizbroa kin, biznyas men dhea dinkma whin, ah kan gat no reeleev…

  10. [re=269923]snideinplainsight[/re]: FTW. Though if I’m wrong, then I have to tell you you’re not in the Pentecostal Talking in Tongues chatroom.

  11. [re=269910]SayItWithWookies[/re]: …that rhymes with ‘boom’! Well, and ‘loom’. As per the lyrics from The Music Man:

    “Ya got Doom, right here in River City.
    And that starts with D, which rhymes with E
    Which stands for Enron!”

    Or something.

  12. Oh Jeebus, another. How could I possibly have forgotten that brilliant SCTV political campaign theme song?:

    “The answer my friends/Is Libby Wolfson/The answer is Libby Wolfson”

    [re=269915]Ken Layne[/re]: And all this time I thought gospel songs *were* songs about murder…

  13. Is it also a coincidence that the Siege of Vienna took place on September 11, 1683, the same day that Mozart wrote his First Etude in Severed-Turk’s-Head Major?

    TEH MUSLIN TURKS WERE DRIVEN OUT OF EUROPE BY TEH CHRISTUNS ON THAT DAY – NEVAR FORGET!!!1 ALSO TELEPROMTERS!!!1

  14. [re=269971]dball213[/re]: And he will lead humanity to its end.

    I guess we’ll find out tonight if Dylan is a Cylon or God, right?

  15. yeah, who is this guy again? anyways,… can Joe the Plumber just be seen or heard from every 7 years?, could Kate Blanchette cover for him? Does he predict corporate bonus’ from his album.

    sorry, but the people who don’t care about Dylan\Beattles will have to pay for all of those who do.

  16. [re=269915]Ken Layne[/re]: Dylan always liked to fuck w/the media. Remember the scene in “Don’t Look Back” where he lectures the guy from Time about what a worthless waste of trees his magazine was?

    Any one like [re=269954]Fox n Fiends[/re] who doubts Dylan’s value should watch the movie. It’s full of wonders, and lacks teleprompters.

  17. I truly love Bob and I really have all 196 of his albums, but I hate that new album cover. It looks like a goddam 1990’s perfume ad.

  18. [re=270019]Mr Blifil[/re]: I love the unpublished line that was in his book, something like:

    “think I’ll cross the bridge, over to Hoboken, maybe over there, everythings not broken”

  19. Heading’ into Eden. Yeay Brothers.
    Steppin’ into Eden, Yeay Brothers.
    No more trouble in my body or my mind.
    Gonna live like a king on whatever I find.
    Eat all the fruit and throw away the rind.
    Yeay Brothers. Yeay.

    Bob Dylan did not write that.

  20. [re=270036]Gorillionaire[/re]: More ’90s perfume ads were on a collective Bruce Davidson kick that hasn’t even ended, if the last issue of Vanity Fair I’ve seen is any indication. This picture, in particular, is from the ’50s Brooklyn gang book. Ain’t no Kate Moss in there.

  21. [re=270066]Ken Layne[/re]: I think you’re mistaken – this photo actually depicts a threesome with Kate Moss as the sandwich spread.

  22. [re=270066]Ken Layne[/re]: Yeah, the pic itself is not so lamentable. It’s the whole presentation, the letter fonts and all that. It looks just like an ad for one of those K-Mart brand jeans or something.
    Just ignore me. I’ll be buying that album and I’ll dig it and then drive to god knows where and see four or five shows and cheer the new songs and I’ll never mention the cover again.
    He’ll never top Love And Theft. I swear to god that is still my all time favorite record of his.

  23. Here’s some of the songs from the new album:

    “The Times They Are An-Endin'”

    “Maggie’s Foreclosed Farm”

    “Rainy Day Climate Change Woman”

    “Blowin’ In the Polluted Wind”

    “Plastic Tambourine Man”

    “Blinded By the Nuclear Light”

  24. Infidels took hold of me in 1983. Recently it has taken hold again. When the Jokerman wonders what a sweetheart like you is doin’ in a dump like this, all I can think is don’t fall apart on me tonight. Yesterday’s just memory and tomorrow’s never what it’s supposed to be, but I need you, Wonkette.

    A few years ago wife & I saw the double-bill Paul Simon/Bob Dylan show. Been a while since I’d listened to Dylan, we expected Simon to be cool & didn’t expect anything from Dylan.

    Paul Simon sucked donkey balls and put everyone to sleep. Bob Dylan, dressed in a white suit, torched the place.

    Bill Nighy suffers from Bob Dylan OCD. Doesn’t listen to any other music.

  25. Could it be that Dylan truely is a prophet?
    And let us take note that, He doesn’t create the truth; He just tell’s the truth.

  26. Don’t read too far into bob dylan lyrics, especially if you think it’s about our current political state. He’s a better writer than that and wouldn’t feed us horse crap. Just buy the album and shut the fuck up.

  27. Oh well, ignorance was fun while it lasted. with vol. 2 of “chronicles” expected out soon and the multi-disk, super-secret Bob Dylan & Hank Williams project finished, i expect an active tour season over the summer. nothing like last year’s abbreviated swing east to west. c’mon, bob; rub our noses in the negativity…doom never sounded so good….

  28. [re=270551]DjSensei[/re]: You want to really look into some Bob Dylan lyrics? Write down every phallic image he uses in “Ballad of a Thin Man.” You’re going to need a few sheets of paper.

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