Together Through Modern Times

By Bub

The album Together Through Life felt like watching Woody Allen act in Picking Up the Pieces alongside Andy Dick and Fran Drescher, and liking it. Sure, he had already done Small Time Crooks, but that was in the past right? And David Schwimmer was in the prime of his career! It was something I anticipated (admittedly much less so [than Together Through Life that is) and it left me with the uncomfortable task of having to apologize for when the crap that was on the screen (metaphorically) hit my grandmother’s cerebral cortex (my grandfather had fallen asleep before the movie started). Even the most challenging and interesting songs on this album are drooping with schmaltz, which I recently learned is a real thing (pure animal fat used for cooking…). Case in point - Life is Hard. It is the only song on the album that I didn’t feel like I heard at the Cajun Fest’ in Amana, Iowa, bobbing back and forth with my deep-fried corn on the cob (seriously) next to drunken hay-bailers, dream-catcher dealers and biker chicks widowed by Army Reservists (and my wife and child, and I honestly enjoyed Cajun Fest’ [and deep-fried corn on the cob]…). But still I felt like it didn’t say anything that Bob didn’t already say better on Oh Mercy.

I saw that Jolene was on the track-list and was actually excited to hear a Dolly Parton cover for the first time since I camped out in front of the theater at the opening of The Bodyguard. Alas, even though it was not an actual cover it felt like a fake cover of something not even worth covering. “Baby I am the King and you is the Queen”.

At this point I want to put in the disclaimer in rock criticism that I have always been waiting to read but have not yet seen – that no matter how harsh my criticism is, I can never make anything worthy of licking the nose of this album or even the worst album that Bob Dylan has ever done (and this is still far from that). This is an amazing contribution to the art form of music and will change the landscape of… you get the idea.

But still, is Hell really your wife’s home town Bob Dylan? Jeez she sounds pretty awful then. Or are we supposed to feel sorry for her? I can’t tell because I was too busy shaking my hips to the twelve bar blues.

I like the idea of having to walk right if I ever go to Houston. But when he started talking about when if I ever go to Dallas, I could only think about Patrick Duffy and Larry Hagman and about how I better pioneer the TV series Dream Season.

Beyond Here Lies Nothin’, Forgetful Heart and It’s All Good are all brooding, foreboding and existential in scope. But at the same time they’re all smaller than what Dylan accomplished with his last three albums. It’s All Good may deal with the end of the world, but it does it in a way that makes it sound like a 70-something-year-old man is trying to communicate in a hip manner with teenagers, and not in a cute way like when he referenced Alicia Keyes in Thunder on the Mountain. Beyond Here and Forgetful Heart deal with powerful issues but they come out through the device of romantic melodrama. And that’s hard to get past. Especially since he didn’t make us get past anything with recent doomful tomes like Aint Talkin’ and High Water.

So this was a horrible disappointment. But still a great album. And by far the best album of 2009! I can’t wait to see Dylan live one more time. Stay alive Bob! I loved the album, really. (And please, my criticism was more for entertainment value than substantive judgment, so don’t argue with me about it like that one time I talked about Kanye West and Eminem, I agree Dylan is the Master of the Universe and everything he does is uranium nitrate gold.).


  1. this is wonderful!! i can't be objective about him, so i'm glad you kind of can.

    i loved the album. i liked his voice on this album probably more than i did on modern times. he's sounding more and more like tom waits by the day! and when he laughs at the end of "my wife's hometown," i mean, ... no words. heart be still.

  2. Ha! Yeah, even if this was just a spoken word album, his voice is so great it would still be album of the year. The crokier the better. I can't explain it but the whole time I listened to this album I kept thinking that I would pay Ben Affleck 12% of what I'd pay Bob to sing these lyrics. Don't know where I got Ben Affleck from... But I would pay to hear Bob croke the recently released torture memos. There's just soul in those croaks.

  3. Great review. I still haven't listened to the album, but I'm planning on very soon. I really do hope it's the best album of 2009 because right now Mirah is still my favorite and that's pretty sad.

    Eminem is the only artist I will argue about, although the song we were arguing over is stupid (even though I like it in some way, mostly a discotech remix of it).

    I love Bob Dylan and his music. I have to say, though, that his greatest contribution to my life is his radio show on Sirius/XM. Nothing will ever be better than it. Not even The Shadow.

  4. Bub thank you for coming back to write this. The only Dylan album I've ever heard is “Down In the Groove” but based on your recommendation I will check this out.

  5. i am listening to 'together through life' right now. croaky is the way to go voice wise. it makes everything, EVERYTHING better.
    i'm only on 'my wife's home town', but i am thoroughly enjoying it. i hope one day tom waits and bob dylan do a 'which one is which?' album. that would be fun.