Bob Dylan’s New Album All About Mexican Pig-Flu Pandemic Plague

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Don't even hear a murmur of a prayer. It's not dark yet, but it's getting there.When word of a surprise new Bob Dylan studio album reached your Wonkette on March 20, we wondered what sort of Actual Hell this record would release, as it is established fact in this first awful decade of the 21st Century that Bob Dylan only releases new studio albums to mark the arrival of another Horseman of the Apocalypse. We’ve been listening to the new record for two days now, and have reached various conclusions, most of which can be summed up like this: JESUS CHRIST THE WHOLE ENTIRE ALBUM IS MEXICAN MUSIC.

Love & Theft, while recorded in New York City months earlier and written over the course of several years, was released on 9/11 and was, in fact, all about what would happen on the day of the album’s release and the terrible fallout from the attacks — whatever wasn’t specifically about 9/11 was about Katrina. It was so harrowing, listening to Dylan’s weird black-humored American Songbook-style sermon/knock-knock joke about 9/11, that the Village Voice printed a hysterical investigation headlined “WHAT DID BOB DYLAN KNOW AND WHEN DID HE KNOW IT.”

Modern Times, named after a Depression-era Charlie Chaplin movie and released late in 2006 near the stock market’s peak, was largely about economic collapse and job loss and ended with a long story about a hobo walking across the country. The cover photograph was Ted Croner’s famous “Taxi, New York Night, 1947–48,” the big blurred car looking like it’s fleeing Manhattan’s skyscrapers at top speed.

And now, Together Through Life: This is a sleazy fucking record that sounds like it was recorded in the back of some El Paso barroom, after the owner skipped town and the dealer’s head was found in an ice chest with three others just outside of Juarez, by the rape factories. It opens with some grim drunken staggering thing called Beyond Here Lies Nothin’, with not only lurching Mexican accordion but a full trashy Tijuana horn section (a single horn). Are you suggesting something here, Bob?

Life Is Hard is a plaintive good-bye ballad with Hawaiian steel guitar: “I pass the old schoolyard, admitting life is hard, without you near me.” What?

Let’s see, here’s another song: If You Ever Go To Houston. “Better know where you’re going, or stay where you are. If you’re ever down there, go back to your ma. I know these streets, I’ve been here before. I nearly got killed here, during the Mexican War.” Seems somebody sure could’ve used that advice this week.

After that happy shuffle and a sinister funeral song, Dylan’s keeping “my hands in my pockets,” so as not to catch the PigDeath, “If it ain’t a dead man’s rise, I die.” What? Then a sad norteño-tejano, which winds down with a tired, “I’ll defend this place with my dying breath.” Then a nasty Chicago blues, vaguely pornographic, ending in flu-murder: “If you’re goin’ on home, better go the shortest way.”

Then, finally, christ, the “happy” song, I Feel a Change Comin’ On. That “village priest” is surely just making neighborly rounds, and “change” doesn’t carry any extra baggage in 2009. Maybe it won’t be that bad, the Death Flu Pandemic Plague. Oh look one more song:

Treacherous midtempo rockabilly, like somebody walking through fires, crashed cars on the side of the road, vultures and day bats, “cold-hearted killer, stalkin’ the town,” here it comes now, the end:

People in the country, people on the land
Some of ‘em so sick, they can hardly stand
Everybody would move away, if they could
It’s hard to believe, but it’s all good

The widows cry, the orphans bleed
Everywhere you look there’s more misery
Come away with me babe, I wish you would
You know what I’m saying
It’s all good, all good, it’s all good.

And through it all, David Hidalgo from Los Lobos on that Mexican accordion.

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About the author

A writer and editor of this website from 2006 to early 2012, Ken Layne is occassionally seen on Twitter and writes small books and is already haunting you from beyond (your) grave.

View all articles by Ken Layne

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50 comments

  1. Bruno

    Hmm, I didn’t think the Mexicans had music. Beacuse they are not in the land of the free, like America, the bestest country in the world.

  2. InsidiousTuna

    [re=305310]Bruno[/re]: Fuck you, Texas is the best country in the world. We won WWII and all.

  3. A Better American Than YOU

    Been reading mid-career Cormac McCarthy and listening to La Pistola y El Corazón. There are some places those Minnesota boys shouldn’t even try to go — unless they take Michelle with them.

  4. slappypaddy

    If you ever go to Houston,
    You better look right.
    You better not gamble,
    And you better not fight.
    ‘Cause the Sheriff will grab you,
    And the boys will bring you down.
    They’ll throw you in the bayou,
    And they’ll whoop while you drown.

    (Yeah, I pretty much stole that, from that fellow who was in prison, I can’t remember his name, he was real famous.)

  5. sevenrepeat

    i’m waiting for janis joplin to come out with a new album before i listen to any of his crap.


  6. Post author
    Ken Layne

    Robert Hunter, who wrote the lyrics for two of the most terrifying country-music albums ever recorded (Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty) co-wrote this whole new record with Dylan, btw.

  7. m_supercomputer

    Bob Dylan was also a harbinger of doom on the (crappy) last seasons of Battlestar Galactica. HE’S THE LAST CYLON, YOU GUYS.

  8. Lord Growing

    In other travesties, “Another Side” was released at the same time as the Tonkin Gulf Resolution hit the shelves. Also, “Self Portrait” was released on the very same day that “Self Portrait” was released.

  9. SayItWithWookies

    I can’t wait until Bob Dylan releases his almanac.
    “Hey honey, I was thinking of mowing the lawn today. Could you check the Dylan Almanac and see what the weather’s supposed to be like?”
    “It says ‘Shivering babies and weeping widows.”
    “Hmmm — how ’bout tomorrow?”
    “‘God said to Abraham, kill me a son.’”
    “Oh. I wonder if the game’s on.”

  10. One Yield Regular

    Thanks, but I’ll stick to the Hermanas Aguila singing “Obsesion” if I need a prophetic Mexican music fix.

  11. qwerty42

    [re=305328]slappypaddy[/re]: there is an old album from the 60′s (Nat King Cole ??) — Dylan is credited with the harmonica on Midnight Special.


  12. Post author
    Ken Layne

    [re=305397]qwerty42[/re]: Oh it is. That’s just the only clip I could find on YouTube of Hidalgo playing the accordion — I guess he plays a lot more guitar with Los Lobos.

  13. johnnypantalones

    Fuck Ken, I hope you’re getting a cut of sales, I went straight from here to Amazon to order this baby up.

  14. slappypaddy

    [re=305328]slappypaddy[/re]: Leadbelly! Awright, I remembered, time to clock out and have a(nother) drink. I been makin’ Chryslers all day! Sellin’ ‘em with loans I got from BoA!

  15. Canuckledragger

    On 9/12, I guest-hosted a radio show. Started with a double dose of reality: “Who’s Running My World” by Canuckistani heroes Thundermug, followed by Bob’s “Everything Is Broken.”

    For reasons still unclear to me, the station in question refused to let me play Marvin Gaye’s “Fly The Friendly Skies.” Can I play it for you now? Let me just get my tuba….

  16. IonaTrailer

    All music devolves into polka – and Mexican music is a prime example.

    Bob Zimmerman is Polish.

  17. Cloudman

    So basically what you’re saying is that Bob Dylan is an unpatriotic muslin who hates America and wants the troops to fail?

  18. Red Zeppelin

    OT, but Ken can we please please please have a children’s treasury of wingnut responses to the Mescan plague? I bet it will almost make surving it (or not) worthwhile.

  19. Lascauxcaveman

    Jeez, Ken. Sometimes an obscure, poetic lyric is just an obscure, poetic lyric.

    I guess this means Dylan is writing all those creepily accurate horoscopes, too.

  20. Red Zeppelin

    I saw Dylan at Red Rocks last year. It was amazing–his vocal range is half an octave, he barely moved, and wore a sombrero that made his face invisible most of the time. Still, it was electifying. He’s got the Mescan pig-god mojo, or something.

  21. wheelie

    [re=305407]Ken Layne[/re]: Thank you for this write-up. I’m going to see Bob Dylan play in Dublin next Wednesday. I better get the CD tomorrow.

  22. Mahousu

    The widows cry, the orphans bleed
    Everywhere you look there’s more misery

    It’s all good, all good, it’s all good.

    Well, you know, there are historians who claim that the Black Death led directly to the Renaissance. Cleared the decks, so to speak, so that the survivors had more land and other resources, and so were (eventually) wealthier and could afford all that intellectual stuff.

    So the future does look bright, once all of us die and get out of the way.

  23. Cookie Guggelman

    “If it ain’t a dead man’s rise, I die.”

    That very Donnian. And I haven’t had a thought like that since grad school.

  24. Norbert

    Horsemen of the apocalypse, hunh? In about uh 1974, Zimmy sang:

    No llores, mi querida / Dios nos vigila
    Soon the horse will take us to Durango

    I rest my case.

  25. Keram2

    Ken,

    Not to get all music journo copyeditor on you, but songs are in quotes and albums are italicized. Sorry, that was my pet peeve when I was a factchecker. You’d be surprised how many freelancers don’t know that, even though writing music reviews was their fucking job.

  26. sleepy

    for the record, dylan pretty much started the whole irony/sarcasm thing in popular culture: it’s alright ma i’m only bleeding, don’t think twice, all that.


  27. Post author
    Ken Layne

    [re=305543]Keram2[/re]: You obviously haven’t seen the Wonkette style guide. BEWARE THIS KIND OF THING CAN GET YOU BANNED!

  28. hobospacejunkie

    Infidels is my favorite Bob Dylan album. Right after he gave up Jesus and went back to bein’ a Jew.

  29. Lascauxcaveman

    [re=305543]Keram2[/re]: Seriously dude, get a copy of Strunk & White & Layne before the banhammer does it’s grisly work on yo hed.

  30. pat robertsons personal trainer

    maybe i’m just a commie messican myself, but i really liked this album. (but again i also listened to it while spreading swine flu from my gay hippy diy houston enclave–the heights–to all parts of ‘merica on a flight from hou to stl.) p.s. i also like nashville skyline. p.p.s. i also heart bob. i saw him on my 21st b-day with paul simon and they were both waaaaay past their respective primes and waaay past awesome.

  31. Doglessliberal

    I’ll believe it when you tell me what Blood on the Tracks foretold. OK, so 1975, “Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts”? “You’re Gonna Make me Lonesome When You Go”? “Tangled Up in Blue”? Saigon evacuated? Ford assasination attempts? Eh, I got nothing.

    Still, one of the best albums ever, by anyone.

  32. forgracie

    [re=305580]hobospacejunkie[/re]: What’s a sweethearrt like you doing in a dump like this?

  33. lawrenceofthedesert

    How could you not mention the new vocal resemblance to Clarence “Frogman” Henry? I also like that he is producing himself (must have stayed up all night thinking up “Jack Frost”). A talented, prolific songwriter and a solid guitarist, especially on acoustic, and a completely demented harmonica player, Dylan has mastered multiple styles of singing badly — pseudo-Ramblin’ Jack, nasal crooner (his cover of “The Boxer” still leaves me helpless with laughter), and the latest grad school Howlin’ Wolf are three of my faves; in fact, on my blog I am going to give him an award for it. We listen to lots of Bob; he’s rarely dull.
    [re=305723]Doglessliberal[/re]: You are correct about Blood on the Tracks, a masterpiece. The return-to-acoustic recordings in the 90′s are vastly underrated by critics and show a mastery of multiple folk styles. Dylan’s is a truly impressive body of work: the hippie Irving Berlin.

  34. alfredo edorado novuomo

    I’m younger than him!and I listened to him in rome jn’65!Lord I believe ,truly I do!

  35. wickedmessenger

    [re=305514]wheelie[/re]: Me too!

    I always thought this line from L&T’s “Honest with Me” foretold the post-9/11 G. Bush:

    “I’m here to create the new imperial empire
    I’m going to do whatever circumstances require”

    And from the same song:

    “I’m stark naked, but I don’t care
    I’m going off into the woods, I’m huntin’ bare”

    included here just because i like it.

  36. theumpteenthtimes

    Great piece. I actually came across this because I was about to write my own satirical piece on the new Dylan CD and you beat me to the punch.

    Anyway, I do a “fake music news” site called The Umpteenth Times (theumpteenthtimes.com). Check it out. I think you’d like it.

    Best, Kevin

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