Modern Times portrays a new weird America, even stranger than the old one, because it's merely part of a world consumed by insanity. In these ten songs, bawdy joy, restless heartache, a wild sense of humor, and bottomless sadness all coexist and inform one another as a warning and celebration of this precious human life while wondering openly about what comes after. This world view is expressed through musical and lyrical forms that are threatened with extinction: old rickety blues that still pack an electrically charged wallop, porch and parlor tunes, and pop ballads that could easily have come straight from the 1930s via the 1890s, but it also wails and roars the blues.
With just hours to go until release, the competition to see who can slather Bob Dylan's 32nd studio album with the most deranged praise known to man is hotting up. The Americans have started strongly. US magazine Blender has ranked Modern Times alongside the work not merely of jazz giant Sonny Rollins, but of Matisse and Yeats, and has deployed the classic Dylan obsessive's strategy of lavishing superlatives on what appears to be an unremarkable lyric.
Down in the Mississippi River Delta is where we find Bob Dylan on his 31st studio effort, and it shouldn't blow anybody's mind. There's where we found him in 1965, with his sixth LP, astride a Triumph en route to speeds 'til then unheard of on Highway 61 Revisited. Things have changed: The kid who stole and sang the blues of the American Mid-South in the Sixties was a genius whose instincts and fast-twitch gray matter branded an illuminated text onto a rock sound that for many remains scripture.