Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Can't Truss' 'Em?

even a young mod got time on the mind

Bob Dylan - "Spirit on the Water" (mp3)
(purchase here)

Key tenet of critcism: debunk the cliche. Cliche runs rampant in daily convo. An idea becomes filtered, condensed as a catch phrase that can be repeated with ease. Just keep it (the convo) movin' along, movin'along. So the critic sits in the ivory tower fishing the idea out with a life preserver, resuscitating it with a breath of analysis.

Rock crits do indeed get all the chicks: and there're a doozy of two floozies to greet you at the door. The first windmills her fist to the tune of "Don't Trust Anyone Over 30." The second doesn't even make eye contact and announces you must be on the list: Presley, Dylan, Bowie... Yet, it's 2006 and half these cats is knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door. What's a poor scribe to do?


New York is like that card game where the guy moves three cards around and tricks you into thinking the ace is still in the middle (and outta 20 bones). The city gives you the gift of gab -- and at what volume! -- to throw most folks off guard... which gives you the entry point for whatever you want. Trident recalled how his brother, fresh out of being in-city, walked past the line and ran up on the bouncer to holler, "B, am I in??" Pretty Boy Linebacker was so shook that someone would break line, so he let him in. Holly act kinda weird, indeed.

We return to our regularly scheduled programming: the Clash at NY's Palladium. Paul doesn't get it. Iconic image. It only took 'em another six years to figure it out: Cut the Crap.


I was not a big Dylan fan. Just not a big fan of the voice. Certainly, he can write for days, but music isn't solely text -- and this ain't no poetry gig. The form remained the same and that's the game. In a word, the spirit didn't move me. Call it being unamerican?

Of course, it took a trip abroad to come to my senses. One summy summer afternoon, weaving through Toscana in a two-door Peugeot crammed with four sweaty Italian guys, the gorgeous sister of one of them and a couple sixers (talk about exploding the myth), I had my revelation: a greatest hits tape belting a whining fiddle, a sweeping organ and the voices of six kids bending down the highway.

For me, I found Dylan's spirit not in his voice, but in his vision. It's love, life and rock in wide angle, deep focus. His composition has spanned numerous styles, from documentary to dada, but remained singular. I can almost understand Hilburn's near-annual fellating of the dude. Almost.

How appropriate a title then for his latest. A reference to a past future vision and a past vision of contemporary (are we past pomo and onto poco now? Un poquito... y una mas, perhaps?), yet that constant fixation. Call it staying the course, a trip down that lane.

"Spirit on the Water" trots down the old, winding path. He recalls familiar faces, sights that artists will recognize: "I'm wild about you, gal / You oughta be a fool about me." The road is uneven -- a stumbling piano line here, a crackling voice there -- but traversed with devil-may-care grace. Love is in the air, love is still there after all this time. Why? "I take good care of what belongs to me."

Pay no mind to the ballyhoo or the boos and take a cue from the City. In between are some tunes for those in between days.

I kinda like Bob.


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