Old Habits Try Hard
At the moment, five A-albums still on the backburner, two of which I’ve drafted reviews for, three I haven’t. Plenty of others in my ‘Possibles’ list still in consideration, and even more that interested me marginally the first or second time I heard them but have since neglected and largely forgotten. Oh well. I’ve been sitting on Cohen’s review for ages, thinking eventually I’d write another draft, but after reading it this morning was pleased enough with it. Figure I can always go back and revise. Dylan I just finished today after finally determining that the Titanic song isn’t the self-indulgent showcase I’d once cynically considered. In fact, it’s not bad.
Real news is the best-of lists that are flooding Metacritic. I’m posting December 6th, their last update was December 5th, so far including the aggregate result of twenty-three lists, most of which I’ve heard of, a few I haven’t, and an extra couple I didn’t know they took into consideration (like Amazon.com). Won’t comment too much, but right now the top ten only has three releases I wasn’t expecting: Tame Impala’s Lonerism (which I was half-expecting, but not at #2), Grimes’ Visions, and Converge’s All You Love You Leave Behind. Of the three, I haven’t heard Converge. Tame Impala didn’t impress me any, and I found Grimes mildly interesting but never cared enough to listen again and definitely never entertained the idea it would be a year-end critical favorite. The list that’s most jarring to me at the moment is the Guardian‘s unfolding top ten, which so far has included The xx (understandable because critics love them), Hot Chip (somewhat understandable because they’re both British), and Bobby Womack (… what?). I’ll continue to post comments as more lists come in and the tally for the top ten becomes more clear.
LEONARD COHEN – Old Ideas (Columbia): At 77, Cohen’s anticipatory death album features contradictions that can make muddy what he’s learned over the years. For instance, he follows the lustful “Crazy for Loving You” with “Come Healing,” which considers spiritual cleansing. But like any wise man, he knows if he wants truth he has to be truthful—necessary in addressing the root of morality, his own or the universe’s. So when he proclaims we’re “on different sides/Of a line nobody drew,” I’ll listen when he suggests the genesis of our disagreements is that “Both of us say there are laws to obey / But frankly, I don’t like your tone.” Called Old Ideas why, exactly? Because Cohen’s a geezer? Because someone’s suggested them all before? If he told you out the gate he was a messenger in “the brief elaboration of a tube,” would you think there was more to it? A MINUS
BOB DYLAN – Tempest (Columbia): This may be the first album I buy digitally that wasn’t available exclusively that way. Not hard to figure out why; the last three tracks slog on for nearly half the entire running time. Without ‘em you get a nice forty-minute block that, while not primo Dylan, still hits solid song for song, every single time. Only I forget how much I enjoy the closer “Roll On John,” which still makes for a twenty-two-minute block that veers way off course. Nevertheless, lyrical props are due for the title track, which uses the sinking of the Titanic as a colossal metaphor for America; hard for the faithful to believe it might be sinking, harder still to comprehend we’ll all go down together regardless of whether you’re seated in first class or the cheap seats. Sadder is Dylan’s predicting our cutthroat reaction in trying to keep ourselves above water: “Brother rose up ‘gainst brother / In every circumstance / They fought and slaughtered each other / In a deadly dance.” So maybe I’ll keep that one for historical purposes and just dump “Tin Angel.” Ahh, fuck it. I’ll buy the CD. A MINUS