Modern Times, Bob Dylan’s 31st studio album follows in the footsteps of his last two albums, 1997’s Time Out of Mind and 2001’s Love and Theft. In fact, some pundits see it as the final piece of a trilogy ending the other two albums. Modern Times, an assortment of songs hand dipped in Americana; is soaked in equal parts blues, rockabilly, and jazz and ragtime rock and roll.
Modern Times is a musically elaborate project that further cements Dylan’s ongoing legacy and some critics see him in the middle of a creative renaissance. In fact, most critics sight 1997’s Time Out of Mind as the catalyst of Dylan’s rebirth. For the all swagger and honky-tonk that comprises a footnote of Modern Times, there is still a subtle gentleness and oozing charm swimming throughout the album.
Recently, Dylan stirred up a small amount of controversy with some remarks in the late August issue of Rolling Stone. The comments, taken completely out of context in which Dylan lampoons over the production tactics employed in today’s mainstream music industry.
Dylan is suggesting that everything to sounds like static; however, the comments sounded as though Dylan was attacking the current state of today’s mainstream music, giving the reader the likely impression that Dylan’s out of touch with today’s popular music scene.This misconception is easily corrected with one listen to the first track, “Thunder on the Mountain,” in which Dylan name checks contemporary pop star Alicia Keys.
Furthermore, Dylan actually produces this album; although, under the guise of Jack Frost. Moreover, there is a bit of clever irony in the fact that the album is entitled Modern Times and yet it does not sonically feel modern instead retreats to the sounds of early blues, country and jazz. Notable tracks include a remodeling of Muddy Waters’ 1950 hit “Rollin and Tumblin.” The raucous opener “Thunder on the Mountain,” “Workingman’s Blues #2,” “Nettie Moore” and the albums grand closer “Ain’t Talkin.” Reoccurring themes of love, mortality, religion and politics swirl throughout the album’s 62 minutes. The album’s epic content is clearly evident by the fact that all the albums ten tracks eclipse the four-minute marker.
The album moves slowly down a path that at times is cleverly assembled with lines like, “I’m as pale as a ghost/ holding a blossom on a stem/ you ever seen a ghost? No/ But you’ve heard of them” from “Spirit on the Water.”
Other lyrics such as “Well, the place I love the best is a sweet memory/ It’s a new path that we trod/ They say low wages are reality/ If we all want to compete” from “Workingman’s Blues #2” in which Dylan reminds us the impeding doom of what outsourcing is doing to the economy of the Unites States. The climate and the face of the country are changing and are not what he remembers.