Here's a record chock full of rock 'n' roll archetypes: Levees about to break, thunder in the mountains and women both cheatin' and true. This stuff sounds as old as the hills, but it's all new material -- slyly packaged under the title Modern Times. What these modern times need, Dylan seems to sing, is some old-timey, honest-to-goodness music to save our souls. And that's just what he's offering.
& r & The foot-stompin' blues of "Thunder on the Mountain" and "Someday Baby" are set off by the kinds of slightly obtuse ballads Dylan is famous for. Here it's "Nettie Moore" and "Workingman's Blues #2" (in which he pulls off the lyric "The buying power of the proletariat's goin' down.") There are instant classics, too: "When the Deal Goes Down" is as profound a meditation on the uncoiling of mortality as you'll find anywhere; and "The Levee's Gonna Break" is, hypnotic and flat-out masterful.
& r & Take heart, boomers: At 65, Dylan has cut a perfect record -- it may be his best ever. And that, as everybody knows, is saying a lot.
-- TED S. McGREGOR JR.
DOWNLOAD: "The Levee's Gonna Break"
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TV on the Radio
Return to Cookie Mountain
In musical terms, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is so hot right now it could flash-fry a water buffalo in 15 seconds, thanks in large part to TV on the Radio, whose fortunes have risen -- releasing their first major and thus, to some extent, mainstream record on Interscope -- with that of their beloved neighborhood, which has, just this year, caught the national spotlight itself. (See also: the success of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Roll Your Bones.)
& r & And if their fates be so intertwined (I'm writing this in the middle of watching HBO's Elizabeth I, forgive me), then as go the fortunes of TV on the Radio's latest record (Return to Cookie Mountain), so too go the fortunes of Williamsburg. So, how go the fortunes of Williamsburg? At this moment, dearest reader, with such a meandering, unhurried jazz-pop masterpiece born in its bowels, wethinks its fortunes go quite nicely indeed.
-- LUKE BAUMGARTEN