‘Tempest’ full of traditional Bob Dylan wit & irony
Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 23:09
Bob Dylan’s newest album brings us down a sad, long journey through the deepest depths of his realist soul. In what critics are saying may just be his last album, “Tempest,” proves to Dylan’s fans that he hasn’t lost his wit and social concern despite his growing age.
The album starts of with a slightly jolly (though perhaps out of place) track titled “Duquesne Whistle.” It has a catchy ragtime beat accompanied with a disguised voice that could almost be mistaken for Louis Armstrong. The music video is where this song finds its place in “Tempest.” It shows a young man, bloodied, standing in the city with a girl until a group of masked men beat him and take him away. After they discard his helpless body to the ground, Bob Dylan and his entourage walk by, simply stepping over his unconscious form.
And this is the lightest song in the album.
The title track, “Tempest,” is a 14-minute, 45 verse long song accounting the story of the Titanic. He even grants Leonardo Dicaprio with a short mention. Dylan admits that this story-like tune isn’t factual. He doesn’t know the real events that took place during the historic sinking, the story of passengers sinking deep into the icy sea, of men turned homicidal or altruistic, or of women and children screaming and drowning.
“A songwriter doesn’t care about what’s truthful. What he cares about is what should’ve happened, what could’ve happened,” he told Rolling Stone Magazine. Another classic Dylan irony is embedded in the depths of this tragic song is the uselessness of economic might amidst disaster. Dylan is a preacher of equality. Despite the powerful force behind his lyrics, which are richly poetic and certainly a prize of sorts, its repetitiveness and absence of a chorus loses touch from its splendor. This title track is an example of dragged on excellence.
“Roll On, John,” was written with his close acquaintance, John Lennon, in mind. “I heard the news today, oh boy,” he starts off with a blatant Beatles reference, then escalates into telling the story of a man’s struggle with fame, only to have it end with “He turned around and he slowly walked away/ They shot him in the back and down he went.” Although the track is explicitly about Lennon, some can parallel it to Dylan’s own life, his own struggles with fame and his own metaphorical “death.”
Critics have been repeatedly pointing out the irony behind this album to Shakespeare’s final work, “The Tempest.” Could this be Dylan’s “Tempest,” this sad and overtly depressive reality check? Although it is certainly an impressive lyrical masterpiece, let’s hope he continues on and leaves the music world on a more blissful note.