If you’re a Dylan fan and you haven’t heard Modern Times yet (maybe you’re a bad Dylan fan), go buy it. If you’re not even a fan, you still might like it. It’s really, really good. Time Out of Mind was good, “that September 11” album was fun and new, and everyone had their favorite funny line (bootleggers, Chicago, etc.) But this album is just good. Good writing, as always, and good music. I’m still partial to the NET band that was touring with Bob when I went to my first few shows (Larry who nodded at Kari and me once, Kemper and especially Charlie), but this current band is good, too.
There’s a link for the lazy.
Dylan almost goes protest-music on us again on this one. He’s been including a few songs in live sets over the past couple years that some construe to be anti-war, or anti-the-evils-of-war anyway. Other than “Masters of War” those have been covers, and they’ve been pretty tangential in typical style. But on this album, his “Workingman’s Blues #2” is an original Dylan song, and it starts off pretty head-on:
“The buyin’ power of the proletariat’s gone down
Money’s gettin’ shallow and weak
They say low wages are a reality
If we want to compete abroad”
“I can’t save a dime
I got to be careful, I don’t want to be forced
Into a life of continual crime
I can see for myself that the sun is sinking
How I wish you were here to see
Tell me now, am I wrong in thinking
That you have forgotten me?”
I read someone’s opinion (it was probably in Rolling Stone’s review) that the lines below are Bob’s way of toning down his defense of the worker, of balancing his support with an accusation that some poor workers are lazy and undeserving:
Some people never worked a day in their life
Don’t know what work even means
That’s how the song ends, and like the rest of the song it is in the narrator’s voice. Unlike the reviewer, though, I think in context Dylan is claiming that the worker/narrator is, in fact, a hard worker who’s being disadvantaged by falling wages and the system. Google it, read the entire thing and see what you think.
If I’m more correct than that other reviewer and Dylan really isn’t pulling any punches, this song becomes his most blatant “protest” song (though he doesn’t write those) in years.
Buy the album and hear it for yourself, or buy a ticket: Bob’s touring in October all over the US and Canada.