#5 Modern Times – Bob Dylan 2006
"Thunder on the Mountain"
"Spirit on the Water"
"Rollin' and Tumblin'"
"When the Deal Goes Down"
"Workingman's Blues #2"
"Beyond the Horizon"
"The Levee's Gonna Break"
“The suffering is unending every nook and cranny has it's tears
I'm not playing, I'm not pretending, I'm not nursing any superfluous fears”
How good are you if I feel like you slipped one by me and it still comes in at number five on my best of the decade list? Or maybe the question should be: What kind of precedent have you set if Modern Times feels like an album slipped under my nose while I wasn’t looking?
Modern Times is a tough one to corner, it can get by you, think it’s great but then again you’re really not sure. The last two Dylan releases you bought were Time Out of Mind and Love and Theft, immediate ballistics upside your head and heart. Trust yourself man, Modern Times is on par and is a stalwart closer to this latter day Dylan triumvirate.
“My cruel weapons have been put on the shelf come and sit down on my knee. You are dearer to me than myself as you yourself can see.”
Dylan sings from Working Man Blues #2. In reading through a mountain of decade end reviews time and time again the idea of an album singularly reflecting this often harrowing time in modern history is attributed to various different works. A sense of despair and impending decline, a loss of identity and purpose.
Modern Times is Dylan’s stamp on the days we now find ourselves in. The character in this work exists despite these surroundings, rarely in harmony with them. These are not the reflections of a kid, a young man, but of a weathered soul - heart burning still yearning almost impossibly against the backdrop of this time. I often think of the unnamed father from Cormac McCarthy's The Road.
“In the still of the night, in the world's ancient light
Where wisdom grows up in strife
My bewildering brain, toils in vain
Through the darkness on the pathways of life
Each invisible prayer is like a cloud in the air
Tomorrow keeps turning around
We live and we die, we know not why
But I'll be with you when the deal goes down"
This is the opening verse of When the Deal Goes Down. Heavy stuff indeed, getting to it, time is winding down, no pussyfootin’ around, say it straight and true.
“In the dark I hear the night birds call
I can hear a lover's breath
I sleep in the kitchen with my feet in the hall
Sleep is like a temporary death”
Woah man…. A life lived and still living – rest is the enemy now.
“Oh, I miss you Nettie Moore
And my happiness is o'er
Winter's gone, the river's on the rise
I loved you then and ever shall
But there's no one here that's left to tell
The world has gone black before my eyes”
Longing with no one to tell, a world you thought you knew had the curtain pulled.
“As I walked out in the mystic garden
On a hot summer day, hot summer lawn
Excuse me, ma'am I beg your pardon
There's no one here, the gardener is gone
Ain't talkin', just walkin'
Ain't talkin', just walkin'
Up the road around the bend
Heart burnin', still yearnin'
In the last outback, at the world's end”
This is how Modern Times ends with a lone figure still walking in a world where the gardener is missing… A backdoor gem, Bob Dylan tip toed in to my house and left a bomb, I can hear the dynamite sizzling.
I have a distinct feeling that this album is going to age beautifully. For me it just gets better and better.