What’s Wrong With Bob Dylan’s New Album? The Last Song, Probably

By

The reviews for Bob Dylan's new album (out today!) are in — and they're unexceptional! "Very little on Together Through Life seems destined for his repertory's long haul," complains the Times' Ben Ratliff. "A toss-off from an artist who has done better work in the past," whines the Chicago Tribune's Greg Kot. These are a long way from the boomer-critic hosannas who greeted 2006's Modern Times or 2001's Love and Theft! Worst of all? Rolling Stone's David Fricke (David Fricke!) gives the album an abysmal four out of five stars! Cripes, how terrible is this thing?

Actually, it's strange — Together Through Life hews pretty close to the template of Modern Times and Love and Theft. Practically all of it is comprised of what made up 90 percent of its two five-star predecessors: rockabilly-ish upbeat tracks, a couple of pedal-steel-y ballads, some old-timey one-liners, and a bunch of funny pickup lines. Really, our favorite songs on TTL (listen here, here, and here) are at least as good as our favorite ones on Times and Theft. Most of them have a slight south-of-the-border feel (plus accordion, which may not be your thing), but after a week of pretty careful listening to Together, we fail to see a vast difference in quality between its first nine songs and the first nine songs on those other albums.

To our ears, the one thing obviously missing from Together Through Life is the now-standard, ten-minute, Dylanologist-appeasing bummer closing track in which he makes oblique references to his history, mythology, and mortality (think LaT's "Sugar Baby", MT's "Ain't Talkin'," or Time Out of Mind's "Highlands"). Instead, we get "All Good" (hear it below), which is just sort of a throwaway.

And sure, a dark, brooding, extended meditation on Dylan's oldness probably would've made this whole record feel weightier, just like their last tracks probably made LaT and MT feel — but to us, one song's omission hardly makes the difference between Annie Hall and Mighty Aphrodite, or anything. Even so, to hear most critics tell it, Together Through Life is "minor Dylan," "a mixed bag," and a "letdown". And while we haven't found one review that specifically cites "All Good" as Together's main problem, we really suspect it might be, at least so far as critics seem to have a problem with the album.

At this point, for Bob Dylan, don't bleak songs like "Ain't Talkin'" pretty much come easy? And surely by now he knows exactly which buttons to press to make Rolling Stone critics flip their shit, right? One gets the feeling that he didn't want that extra star from David Fricke, anyway.

Below is Together Through Life's closer, "All Good," which, admittedly, isn't great. But we'd probably have only docked him half a star for it.


Watch our new series!

Down Arrow

Vulture’s Secret History of Television

Artboard 5

Who First Said ‘Motherf*cker’ on TV?

View all videos

Latest News from Vulture

Watch Katherine Heigl Tearfully Come Out As a Lesbian in This Jenny’s Wedding Clip

In this movie, her love interest is Gilmore Girls star Alexis Bledel.

Amy Schumer Is Now the Human Pyramid on Which Jennifer Lawrence Stands

#FriendshipGoals

9 Embarrassing Ways Brands Are Responding to Drake and Meek Mill’s Beef

You won't believe who chimed in.

Coach Taylor Is Back! It’s Only for a Movie Theater PSA, But Who Cares — Clear Eyes, Full Hearts

Already crying.

Roland Emmerich Discusses His Gay-Rights Drama Stonewall and Debuts the Exclusive Poster

"It was a huge challenge to make this movie," says the Independence Day director.

Key & Peele: It’s Hard Forming Your Own Opinion About The Dark Knight, Okay?

Ooookay.

Wet Hot American Summer’s Undefinable Brand of Smart Stupidity

Call it dumb-smart, its dumbness freshly imbued with a deep, winking self-awareness.

An Oral History of the Wet Hot American Summer Fart Track

Here, at last, is the real, unedited story.

Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp Recap: Nobody Looks a Day Over 40

Welcome back to Camp Firewood, again, for the first time.

What’s New on Amazon Prime: August 2015

Here's what's new on Amazon this August.

Close icon
Make Our Day
Follow Vulture on Facebook