Friday, March 21, 2008

Retribution Gospel Choir - S/T - Lyrics

It didn't come with a booklet. Alan Sparhawk isn't Thom Yorke or suchlike, so you have some chance of figuring out the lyrics on your own. But I feel like transcribing them. So here they are.

They cut a path through the forest
Right to the heart of the fever
And when they got to the ocean
They knew that nothing could keep her
They knew you well

So let the water surround us
And let the forest hide evil
She tried to speak like a stranger
We tried so hard to believe her
They knew you well

So she waits at the edges of the mattress
What it takes to get a bad mess out of a bad dress
When she sings, it's like a bluebird on a whipping post
When she speaks, she thanks the good Lord for the Holy Ghost
Take your time, sweet thing

Our bodies break
And the blood just spills and spills
Yet here we sit discussing math

It's just a shame
My hand just kills and kills
There's got to be an end to that

She's always on with the burnout
She's always talking like Jesus
See her walk to the west side
Make a line 'cause you have to
She's somebody's someone

Put your hand on the birdhouse
Keep on talking like Jesus
And take out all of the good lines
Leave the people with nothing
Somebody's someone

I am the destroyer
I am the angel of death
My head is filled with fire
I hear the voices of the dead

Well I watched my angry father
Turning circles in the ground
And I saw the great devourer
Yeah he cut my father down

Well I could have been a sailor
Lay my life down for the queen
But when the ocean took my brother
That put a curse on everything

So I ran to the feet of Jesus
He said "Where the hell you been, boy?"
I've been to the top of the highest mountain
I've been to the bottom of the sea

They put holes in our heads
And out of them climbed
First just a dread
Then to the river we ride
With our holes in our heads

It was just like she said
A word to the wise
You run yourself sick
But we just blow by
With our holes in our heads

A face like that
She could have escaped
She cut off her hair
And burned at the stake
And then she turned into the rain

Soap in your eyes
Looks like you're weak
Runs down your face
It's cold on your feet
But then she turned into the rain
Then she turned into
The rain

Pardon my heel
Pardon my speech
Down to the bridge
Down to the beach
But then she turned into the rain
Then she turned into

They all say
"That girl is strange"
Now everybody's at her (for her)
Everybody's at her (for her)
Everybody's at her for her blood

So afraid
People like to hear their name
What they really want from her

Just a little change
But people don't like to wait
So everybody's at her (for her)
Everybody's at her (for her)
Everybody's at her for her blood
For her blood

They took the bait
But then she took the stage
Now everybody's at her (for her)
Everybody's at her (for her)
Everybody's at her for her blood

The Salvation Army
Was all out of ammo
They threw down their weapons
But kept up the battle
It's so hard to handle
We laughed and we made up
Deflecting the arrows
But cutting your face up

Those damn kids
Don't they understand
That you can't do shit like that
Someday soon they'll be just like us
And they'll stare down at their feet

The kids that we hated
Did better than we did
The girl with the habit
I wish you could see her
'Cause all of the dreamers
Have come to disaster
The panel is waiting
"Just give us your answer"

Those damn kids
Don't they understand
That you can't do shit like that
Someday soon they'll be just like us
And they'll stare down at their feet

Some men bring you flowers
Some men pay the bills
God rest you sons of morning

Oh could joy be nothing
And every strain a waste
Even if they are, we're in trouble
Even if we are what they say
Even if we are easy prey

'Cause everyone on fire
And through the eyes of birds
Well even if they are, we're in trouble
Even if we are what they say
Even if we are easy prey

Everyone loves power
And everyone loves cake
And every time those words fall out
You laugh like they're too late
Well even if they are, we're in trouble
Even if we are what they say
Even if we are easy prey

Bonus track:
We sing of salvation
We sing what me must
'Cause one man's treasure
Is another man's lost

But down in the valley
The shadow of death
The poor man's daughter takes her very first breath

Forty wild horses
Float in the dust
I'm a wanton repeater
And a breaker of trust

But down in the valley
The shadow of death
The poor man's daughter takes her very first breath

They crumble before us
In ribbons of string
But the poor man's daughter
Is the ghost inside me

And she says:
La la
La la

Suggested tracklist:

  1. They Knew You Well

  2. Breaker

  3. Somebody's Someone

  4. Poor Man's Daughter

  5. Destroyer

  6. Holes in Our Heads

  7. What She Turned Into (EP2 version)

  8. For Her Blood

  9. Kids

  10. Easy Prey

Friday, April 21, 2006

Neil Young: Decade 4

So from 1995-2005 Neil Young released quite a few albums. I was very ambivalent about them, as, well, it's Neil Young. I'm pretty much caught up, now, though, so here are capsule reviews.

1995 Mirror Ball (with Pearl Jam)
Probably good for his heart, but Pearl Jam just aren't the best backup for him. There are two great songs here, but other than solo-Young organ excusions, everything else drags on too long. Crazy Horse can drag a song out for 6 minutes by serving as rolling thunder for Neil's guitar to flash across. Pearl Jam just keep thumping, and it becomes a chore to listen to.

Essentials: "Song X", "I'm the Ocean"

1996 Broken Arrow (with Crazy Horse)
This is one of the more underrated records in his catalog (but then I listen to Arc and Metal Machine Music without any sort of chemical inducement, so, yeah). The sheets of noise, the diverse and enjoyable lyrics, and the feeling of rightness all combine to make this a great sunday-afternoon listen. I really need to hear "Interstate"...

Essentials: "Slip Away", "Music Arcade" -- but this one should be listened to as a whole.

Year of the Horse (live album with Crazy Horse)
"It all sounds the same!" "It's all one song!"
It's sloppy and doesn't really bear terribly close listening, but it's very comfortable, and some of the rarities ("Dangerbird", "When Your Lonely Heart Breaks") are worth the very low asking price.

Essentials: You know what? Not really. Some of the Broken Arrow songs are better here, but they're very similar.

2000 Silver & Gold
God, what a snoozer. Having quite liked Prairie Wind, I was hopeful for this one and picked it up. It's mostly dire. "Buffalo Springfield Again", a song I was looking forward to hearing, is an embarrassment almost on the order of "Let's Roll", without even the good-natured wryness of "He Was the King." The second "side" of the album is a bit better, but cliche is the reigning lyrical technique. All the songs are on the same topics: love, comfortability, family, days that used to be. All the songs sound the same. "Razor Love", a song written around the Times Square period, is almost ruined by sounding exactly the same as everything else, but it eventually pulls out and becomes quite a good song.

Essentials: The real gem of this album is the closer, "Without Rings," a sorta sequel to "Transformer Man". It's much more intimate and soulful than the rest of the album.

2002 Are You Passionate? (with members of Booker T. & the M.G.'s and, on one track, Crazy Horse)
I have a full review up somewhere... This album sounds good, but the lyrics, man... ugh. Cut out "Let's Roll", "When I Hold You In My Arms", "Be With You", and "Two Old Friends", reshuffle what's left, and the album improves immensely. "You're My Girl" is touching. The title cut comes close to being essential, but horrible lyrics ruin it; "She's a Healer" is fun and cornball. Everything else is fun to listen to, but you kinda have to ignore the lyrics. What can I say, at least it's better than the last one.

Essentials: "Goin' Home" is Crazy Horse at its droniest, if not its best. I hear it as a violent sequel to "Slip Away."

2003 Greendale (with Crazy Horse)
Sounds like: Zuma
Overall effect: It sounds like Zuma, it's worth hearing. It's actually pretty damned good until the plot actually starts moving. The political commentary is unenlightening, and the final song is too catchy to have such goddamn stupid lyrics. Possibly the most effective use of a megaphone in rock.

Essentials: "Falling from Above", "Devil's Sidewalk", "Leave the Driving", "Carmichael", "Bandit"

2005 Prairie Wind
OK, OK, the lyrics aren't great (Chris Rock? WTF?) and the faux-populist politics are tiresome. The self-plagiarism isn't so uplifting either (No Wonder shamelessly cribs from Captain Kennedy, etc.). But the songs sound different, there are some really touching moments, and despite the length of the songs I find them pretty listenable. "Here For You", "This Old Guitar", and "He was the King" form the weak sequence on the album, but they're not as appallingly dull as most of Silver and Gold. He closes with an affecting original hymn that, while theologically naive, is heartfelt and, well, essential. I'd like to see it performed in churches.

Essentials: "Falling Off the Face of the Earth", "Prairie Wind" (well, if it weren't so awfully long), "When God Made Me"

P.S. Neil Young told Jimmy McDonough that he still believed in burning out. Paraphrase: "When I go out, you'll know it. I'll be like a fuckin' meteorite." Living With War sounds like a fucking meteorite. I expect it to be, well, appalling, but it sure will sound different!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Half-thoughts and their dangers

I suffer from more than a fair degree of intellectual dilettantism, swinging from "brilliant idea!" to "brilliant idea!" without ever actually finishing the development of any given one. Heck, look at these blogs.

But at least I don't write a newspaper column.

John Harris at the Guardian wrote a rather appalling column about lyrics in popular music back in June. He complains that they are not meaningful enough. Pop music lyrics, not deeply meaningful? Imagine that!

Judging by the narrative development of said column, he seems to have started with an unimpeachably great idea: Coldplay fucking sucks. Chris Martin fucking sucks. Their music is not half bad, other than the orchestra. Most of all, though, Chris Martin's lyrics are bathetically bad, the sort of scribblings you might expect from an earnest ninth-grader or a precocious and sensitive twelve-year-old -- but not from a grown man! I mean, Christ:

Ideas that you’ll never find
All the inventors could never design
The buildings that you put up
All Japan and China, all lit up
A sign that I couldn’t read
Or a light that I couldn’t see
Some things you have to believe
But others are puzzles, puzzling me

Great galloping bollocks! are these bad lyrics, still more from the "world's most important band" of the moment. Not that Chris Martin means ill, it's just hard to write anything meaningful when you don't know anything meaningful.

Anyway, let us, for the time being, take Coldplay's immense badness as a given. Mr. Harris could have produced a wonderful piece by tripping back through the history of "important" bands with dogshite lyrics. (A certain popular group from Dublin must stand and represent here for the atrocities of their latter career, all apologies to a Mr. Cooke.) Oh, how David Crosby might have trembled! (or not.)

But instead, Harris begins to veer off on a weird tangent about modern lyrics not being meaningful enough. I quote:

One need only listen to the songs written by such equally confused groups as Keane, Snow Patrol, Embrace and Athlete to understand that, just as rock musicians once opportunistically sang about peace and love, punk-rock anarchy and the 1980s imperative to "go for it", so the latest generation often seems to be united by a fondness for inconclusive songs that try to capture life's most elemental aspects, but end up evoking nothing much at all.

Far be it from me to defend these bands. I haven't the faintest idea who the last two even are, and have only the faintest (and not too positive) impressions of the first two. He says they're "lushly produced self-helpery," and, sure, I'm willing to believe it. Not really news that a band like Coldplay would spawn imitators, but, OK. And then he goes off the cliff.

And what of the wider socio-economic picture? The ideological age of culture wars, in which sparky musicians felt compelled to adopt the mantle of social critics, is long gone. ... It would be nice to welcome some 21st century equivalents of John Lennon, John Lydon, Morrissey and Jarvis Cocker, but the chances look pretty slim.

Guh? John Lydon I'll grant you, regardless of his motives. But to elevate John "Freda People" Lennon and Mr. "Meat Is Murder" Morrissey as socially conscious artists all young bands should imitate? We're treading on dangerous ground here. (I am a great devotee of Lennon's music, and much less a devotee of the dangerously broken man, but has this man ever heard "Sometime in New York City"?) Much as I like a few Morrissey/Smiths songs, the man's so full of shit that, well, complete that as you will.

And then further he falls:

There's an easy retort to all this, of course. Coldplay, Keane and Snow Patrol are not the only successful groups; should anyone tire of all their lushly produced self-helpery, they need only turn to the more prickly music being peddled by the likes of Franz Ferdinand, the Futureheads, the Kaiser Chiefs and Bloc Party. Their stuff comes with satisfyingly jagged edges; the words seem a little more worked-out than the rest of the stuff you hear on the radio. ... But what's still missing is any real sense of rock consistently engaging in the art of social comment. Worse still, even the most promising minds among modern musicians don't seem to have much of a facility with words.

Thence follows mockery of the lyrics to Kaiser Chief's "Oh My God", not a terribly intelligent lyric but a very brilliant song. Besides, "Drifting apart like a plate tectonic" is a great lyric. And there are some real gems elsewhere as well:
"Cu- cu- cu- creosote is pouring out of my brain
I swear I heard the floorboards; they were creaking your name."

I would submit those lyrics to a poetry contest sooner than I would "Mind Games", that's for certain.

Thence follows a very good mini interview with Andy Partridge of XTC, who seems to have thought about the theory of good pop lyrics more than even I have. Then again, I don't like XTC much, but who's counting. Then it's onto a professor of Modern English Literature at University College London, John Sutherland.

With whom he assaults "Morning Bell" by Radiohead. Alright, so I'm predictable. Anyhow:

We spend an hour or so picking through a selection of lyrics: the entirety of X&Y, gleaming examples of rock's past glories by the likes of Morrissey and Paul Weller, and Radiohead's sense-defying Morning Bell, an embodiment of the idea that if narrative coherence is among the duties that modern musicians have abandoned, Thom Yorke may have quite a lot to answer for.

Sutherland scrolls through the lyric to Morning Bell on his computer screen. After a couple of lines, his face has screwed into a mixture of bafflement and distaste. "What are they doing? There's no grammar in there; no syntax at all. Even Coldplay have a bit of that: subject, object, verb. There's none here, is there? It's just bits of language, floating loose. There's poetry like that - Ezra Pound, for example. But a lyric like this tells us nothing at all. 'Release me/ release me/ Where d'you park the car/ Where d'you park the car/ Clothes are on the lawn with the furniture.' What is this? Eviction? Prison? TS Eliot said, 'Real poetry communicates before it's understood.' But with this, I'm not sure it does either."

I may be biased, but there is more sense in Morning Bell than in half of the Pound oeuvre combined. And I like Pound! But just look:

The morning bell, the morning bell.
Light another candle. Release me, release me.

You can keep the furniture. A bump on the head.
Howling down the chimney, release me, release me.

Where'd you park the car? Where'd you park the car?
The clothes are on the lawn with the furniture. Release me. Release me.

And I might as well, I might as well
sleepy jack the fire drill
Round and round and round and round and round
Release me. Release me.

Cut the kids in half.
Cut the kids in half.
Cut the kids in half.

Lights are on but nobody's home
Talking about but noone's listening
And I'm walking, walking, walking, walking

Lights are on but nobody's home
Everybody wants to be a villain
Everybody wants to be a villain
Nobody wants to be a slave
and I'm walking walking walking walking...

The obvious "social context" of the song is a divorce. I mean, "cut the kids in half." Sheesh. The clothes on the lawn with the furniture. There is a subtext of amnesia and ghostliness: howling down the chimney, a bump on the head, lights on but nobody home. (Also, and this suggestion comes from SongMeanings so take it with a box of Morton's, "The Morning Bell" happens to be the name of a rather good and very evocative painting by Winslow Homer.) There are very needlessly obscure Radiohead songs; this is not one of them. Both official versions, furthermore, are some of the ghostliest things I've ever heard.

And that takes us back to why we sing: some of us sing in the dark to ward away the ghosts, some of us sing to remember our ghosts, some of us sing because we have no ghosts to trouble us. Lyrics matter insofar as they reinforce these higher reasons. I can't enjoy Coldplay or "Walk On" because the lyrics feel banal, empty, trite and disappoint the music. I can enjoy the songs of Neil Young, whose lyrics tend to lie dead on the page but come to life when sung. But while I'm all for the importance of lyrics, it seems sheer folly to try to look at them as poems. They're no more meant to be poems than a Pound Canto is meant to be sung.

I could continue my response to the essay -- there's not much to go -- but I've made my point. I'll just close out with a little quotation from an artist we both admire, from a fantastic song that delights in not making "coherent sense" and in not being rooted in any particular time, though its place is unmistakably British:

Expert texpert choking smokers
Don't you think the joker laughs at you?

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Get Behind Me Satan

... pre-quoted from an Amazon review ...

The White Stripes are one of the most promising acts in recent history. I got into them shortly after their debut, which still ranks high among my favorite debut albums. De Stijl, for its many charms, seemed disjointed and uneven by comparison. White Blood Cells did everything right and remains my favorite by them by a hair. Elephant was a step in the wrong direction, a contrived and awkward album cursed by novelty tunes (good novelty tunes though they may be).

So it was with trepidation that I awaited the release of Get Behind Me Satan. Sure, "Blue Orchid" was a great refreshing song and great to hear the radio, but "Seven Nation Army" was and remains one of their best songs. There was nothing in "Blue Orchid" to suggest that the sound of the new album would diverge too much from Elephant. Good or bad, though, I figured I'd give it a try...

Thankfully, everything on Get Behind Me Satan works -- it's the most effective tracklist besides White Blood Cells, feels all of a piece, and is blessedly free of the novelties that made Elephant a bit of a freak show. Sure, the instruments being used are slightly, uh, different: piano, marimbas, bass. The songcraft of Mr. Gillis is as strong as ever, though, and the band manages to create some really dynamic sound structures.

"Blue Orchid" kicks things off with a bang, combining garage-rock vigor with Talking Heads-ish tension. Notably more produced than most Elephant tracks. The song suddenly stops and marimbas take over -- truly a bizarre shift, but an effective one, as a tale of trust and betrayal unfolds in "The Nurse." The emergence of the chorus's backing guitar and drums over the course of the song seems odd at first, but after two listens sounds natural. Down tempo gives way to up tempo with "My Doorbell," an incredibly catchy (and funky!) song reminiscent in concept of Neil Young's "Walk On." A very strong candidate for single release.

The second part of the album is equally strong. "Forever For Her (Is Over For Me)" is a simple but lyrically deft breakup/new love ballad equal to or better than Elephant's excellent "You've Got Her In Your Pocket." It gives way to the bluegrass dustup "Little Ghost," possibly a tribute to Rita Hayworth or the new Mrs. White -- a cute, fun ditty most reminiscent of WBC's "Hotel Yorba." Lyrics are pleasingly clever: "The first time that I met her, I did not expect a specter" really rolls off the tongue. Back to rocking for "The Denial Twist," a driven ode to jealousy and suspicion. "White Moon" is a rather surrealistic piano meditation on death, abandonment, and lovely Rita -- certainly the oddest track on here.

"Instinct Blues" is somewhat long and somewhat repetitive but introduces frustration, tension, and unhappiness in place of "Ball and Biscuit's" braggadocio and is much the better for it. It's a great song to crank up on the highway with the windows down. "Passive Manipulation" is the closest thing to a novelty, a thirty-second meditation by Meg on obedience to significant others and female independence. Maybe, uh, some other issues as well, but I'm not speculating there. Another highlight follows in the form of "Take Take Take," yet another Rita song. It describes interactions between the actress and the equivalent of a groupie, with the tense and heavily tracked vocals on the chorus simply repeating the title.

"As Ugly As I Seem" is one of the more surprising tracks on here; it sounds like an acoustic Smashing Pumpkins outtake more than anything else. I haven't fully gotten my head around "Red Rain" yet, but it's catchy and surprising. "I'm Lonely" ends the album on a wry but laid-back and familiar note, as the narrator contemplates family, romance, and suicide.

While the album may seem a "mishmash," as Amazon's review called it, it's in practice a very coherent and unified album. The Whites are in fine form and Jack's voice in particular is great. If you've liked their work in their past, particularly their first album, you owe it to yourself to give this one a try. The best album of the year to date.

Highlights: Blue Orchid, The Nurse, My Doorbell, Take Take Take (and many of the rest :)

Monday, February 28, 2005

A Happy Death

Once a Hollywood wild man of legendary reputation, Zevon had been sober for nearly 18 years and quit smoking almost five years ago. When he was asked last year what he does while staring death in the eye, Zevon replied by saying, "Work."

"Harder, hopefully with some focus," Zevon said. "I'm working a lot every day. I already have great relationships with my children ... I've already led two lives. I got to be a wild, crazy, Jim Morrison quasi-rock star, anyway, and I got to be a sober dad for 18 years. I can't possibly complain."

I'm tired of the warped view that our society takes of death. Sure, it's a bad thing, and a sad thing. Still, it's worse to lose someone, I think, than to die yourself. There are lots of things worse than death that people can experience directly.

I'd like to do miniature case studies on the lives and deaths of two friends, Warren Zevon and Hunter S. Thompson. Not right now, exactly, but watch this space.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Pixies In Glory: Pixies in Detroit 20041118

With all questions of import to the world now safely out of my hands, we can return to utter frivolity like good patriotic Americans. Cheers!

OK, OK, it wasn't the best live show I've ever seen, but damn good. Maybe I'll talk about it later. (Don't bet on it.) I bought the show on disc afterwards (modern technology occasionally makes my heart glow). Oddly enough, I think I like the performance better on disc than I liked it live. Maybe the sound was worse than it seemed. For now, here's the setlist, and a good one it is:

  1. I Bleed (Doolittle)
  2. Head On (Trompe Le Monden - Jesus and Mary Chain cover)
  3. U-Mass (Trompe Le Monde)
  4. Monkey Gone to Heaven (Doolittle)
  5. Caribou (Come on Pilgrim)
  6. No. 13 Baby (Doolittle)
  7. Broken Face (Surfer Rosa)
  8. Crackity Jones (Doolittle)
  9. Isla de Encanta (Come on Pilgrim)
  10. Something Against You (Surfer Rosa)
  11. Hey (Doolittle)
  12. Mr. Grieves (Doolittle)
  13. Velouria (Bossanova)
  14. Dead (Doolittle)
  15. Gouge Away (Doolittle)
  16. Tame (Doolittle)
  17. Debaser (Doolittle)
  18. Wave of Mutilation (Doolittle)
  19. In Heaven [The Lady In the Radiator Song] (cover of "theme" from David Lynch's Eraserhead)
  20. Here Comes Your Man (Doolittle)
  21. Where Is My Mind? (Surfer Rosa)
  22. Holiday Song (Come On Pilgrim)
  23. Nimrod's Son (Come On Pilgrim)
  24. Vamos (Surfer Rosa/COP)
  25. Gigantic (Surfer Rosa)
Looks like I'm not the only one who thinks Doolittle is their best... I wish they'd covered Winterlong as they had earlier on the tour. I wish, I wish, I wish they'd played Silver. All in all, though, a great night out.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Dull roots, spring rain

You know, Desire is a damn weird mess. If I had to somehow compare it to the work of another writer, I would have to go with Neil Young's Hawks and Doves. Both albums seem to have themes (The former, innocence/guilt; the latter, doves/hawks), but both keep throwing up objections whenever it seems they're sticking to the theme. Alright, starting an album review by referencing a more obscure album is probably a bad idea. Let's do it again...

Allen Ginsburg's ridiculous liner notes for Bob Dylan's Desire, worthless as they are, do fit the album in a strange way. Coherent-if-pretentious liner notes, like Blood on the Tracks got, would be way out of place for an album like this. It's not every album, or even every Dylan album, that leads with an unabashed protest song (Hurricane, which is about the framed (?) boxer Ruben Carter), then follows up with an unabashed protest song, Joey, protesting in favor of an actual mob murderer and wannabe boss. It's really not a coherent album... unless it is.

One thing Desire unquestionably is is Bob Dylan's Great Adventure Album. Oh, sure, Dylan had written plenty of songs with either lovers or him sailing overseas, getting sent to jail, even getting killed here and there, but these are Great Adventures out of Jack London, or Ernest Hemingway, or Daniel Defoe, or H. Rider Haggard. There's Hurricane Ruben Carter, potential middleweight champeeen of the woooorld, instead of poor Hattie Carroll, maid of the kitchen. There's Klondike Bob, riding across the icy fields to get a gift for his past and future wife Isis. There's Tropical Bob, inviting a wife or a lover to Mozambique to see all the gorgeous people.

We get Bwana Bob, of unspecified relation to a smooth-backed meadowlark seer, in One More Cup of Coffee (one of his most sinister love songs, reduced to solo organ to wonderful effect on the eponymous debut of The White Stripes). We get Christian? Egyptian? Incestuous? Literalistic? Bob of Oh Sister, another candidate for "most sinister." We get the sad tale of a bloodthirsty gangster with a heart of silver, or maybe tellurium, in Joey, which may well be the most disturbing protest song ever written. We get a Romance in Durango, with the bloody faces, whispering ghosts, and ambushes common to any smart, ambiguous 60s western (do you know of any?). Finally, we get the apocalyptic shiver of Black Diamond Bay, which Brahma/Vishnu/Shiva Bob conjures, personalizes, and then destroys -- "there's not much happening there".

And floating on all the cooling lava, there's the most straightforward song Bob ever wrote. It's just Bob, it's just Sara, and he misses her so. He knows all the answers to his questions, he knows why she left, but he keeps asking them three years later. It's a pointless song and can't bring her back, but that can't stop him from singing it, later. He finally finds, in other words, that diamond he was searching for, back in Isis.

It's a weird slate of songs, as prickly and inaccessible and contradictory as the songs of "Blood on the Tracks" were inviting and mesmerising and coherent. Somehow, with the exception of Joey (BLECH), it works.

Wait-- this is an album, not a collection of poems. Well, musically, the collaboration of Jacques Levy takes Dylan in a new direction. As the outtakes that have been released since testify, it was a thoroughly rewarding direction, with interesting melodies and unexpected choruses everywhere. The backing... no, that's unfair, co-lead vocals of Emmylou Harris dull the sharp edges of Dylan's voice the same way that his old friend Joan Baez's used to, but the effect is much more suited to this album than to those old acoustic songs. His voice alone would be lost in the sprawling jungles of instrumentation created by his six-man band of... creative instruments (fiddle, Bellzouki, accordion, in addition to piano, guitar, drums, bass, and harmonica).

One final word, about Scarlet Rivera. Far from being, as has been suggested, one of Dylan's worse ideas, she practically deserves a co-artist credit, as her violin playing is the lead on nearly every track. Her work on Hurricane particularly sizzles, but she's great on everything. Not nearly as great, though, as she was live on the Rolling Thunder tour. The versions of Isis and Romance In Durango here, nice as they are, just can't hold a candle to the forest fires sparked by her bow live.

BTW, sorry for the delay. I was busy getting married, as was my most faithful reader. We shall strive to do our respective duties more often, now that we have returned.