Together Through Life
Many Dylanologists have gotten so used to the idea of the icon’s comeback that they gloss over an important point: his last three records actually had very little in common. Time Out Of Mind presented an artfully haunted version of the blues; Love And Theft upped the grit to feverish levels, and Modern Times seemed almost hokey in its old-fashioned mellowness. In that context, the main shortcoming of Together Through Life is that it lacks a defining characteristic. It’s a breezy grab-bag, enjoyable yet decidedly low-impact.
The songs here – routine accounts of world-weariness and desire – aren’t particularly deep. But even if they were, they would still have to pierce an imposing veil of kitsch, namely the Tex-Mex accordion slathered onto nearly every track. The texture accentuates the disc’s most endearing feature: its healthy complement of salty humour. Dylan plays an affable crank on ‘My Wife’s Home Town’, and puts the titular catchphrase of ‘It’s All Good’ to winningly sly use.
The more serious material is a mixed affair. Kudos to Dylan for stretching his parched voice into a sob on ‘Life Is Hard’, but he lays on the stagy sentimentality too thick. Much better is ‘Forgetful Heart’, the kind of steely, rueful kiss-off tune that Dylan has excelled at for longer than anyone can remember. It’s one of only a few selections here that are likely to grab non-fanatics the way the previous triptych did.
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It’s impossible for anyone to measure up to the hive-minded hype surrounding this year’s ubiquitous blog darling, Wavves. While it’s no surprise that Fat Possum (home to Andrew Bird) snatched up Nathan Williams’s lo-fi nugget right quick, he remains irretrievably overblown – in both cultural cachet and the sheer distortion fogging up his not-quite-self-titled debut, Wavvves.
Williams’s disaffected, don’t-give-a-crap ethos seeps out of every orifice of this bedroom blast. To his champions, it’s a hearty slice of garage-grit portending a future bounty from a barely-adult Californian. For detractors, it’s dead-end white-noise worshipping. Grimy guitar and primitive drum beats define catchy burnout jams like ‘So Bored’, while the ambient hum on ‘Goth Girls’ (one of five songs with ‘goth’ in the title) hints why one (or two) ‘v’s wouldn’t suffice.
In an era of endless ‘hot new band’ alerts (Wavves was the second result when we Googled the term), it’s hard not to ask yourself if the band is worthy of all the attention. But Williams is the first to admit it, as he sings on ‘Gun In The Sun’: ‘I’m just a guy with nothing to say.’ Funny how that works.
Available at www.7digital.com.