Thursday, February 21, 2013

It's Too Late To Stop Now!

Looking Out My Back Door- by Wm
I'm not the type of music fan that makes a point of following a group or artist through their entire career, usually there's a certain period that I get fixated on and I've learned the hard way that in most cases you're dealing with diminishing returns as a career continues. And there's just so much different music out there that I want to listen that there's not time to dedicate myself in such a manner to any one particular musician. But and so it's nice to discover, hell it's heartwarming and encouraging even, when I do find the time to check in with some old favorites that several, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith and Tom Waits at 71, 66 and 63 respectively, have bucked the odds and continued to release vital and compelling music very late in their careers. It's becoming a less well kept secret that old folks are often hipper than the young so why shouldn't popular music, usually assumed to be the exclusive province of youngsters, start to reflect this reality. 

I've been hearing about Dylan's late artistic renaissance for years now but have only recently found the time to catch up with him. His latest release Tempest is indeed a great album, and I love the charming and funny video for its first single "Duquesne Whistle". There's all kinds of nice subtle touches throughout the video, my favorite is how the girl being pursued is driving a AMC Gremlin. And check Dylan out strolling the mean streets at dusk with his ill posse including a cat dressed up like Gene Simmons circa 1975. There's something special in the way he casually sidesteps the battered young man laying on the ground when he finally crosses paths with the video's protagonist. Dylan remains endearingly weird at 71 and sharp enough to write material that compliments his admittedly ravaged voice. Great singers, and make no mistake Dylan is a great singer, know how to work with their limitations, often turning them into a strength that adds an additional layer of pathos to their performance.

Tom Waits most recent record, Bad As Me, from late 2011 is also worthy of your attention despite its ugly cover, I've included my favorite track "Talking At the Same Time" below.  He's mining roughly the same ground as the great Bone Machine but with interesting variations- how many singers career trajectories find them getting weirder and less commercial as they get older, Scott Walker is the only other that comes to mind. Lastly Patti Smith's 2012 release Banga is a pleasant surprise, not in the least for the change in her singing style to a sweeter softer voice with less of the wavering and strident tone that sometimes rendered her older material grating. Perhaps one day we'll all have the chance to be dignified and old.

A lucky AMC Gremln gets a wash!

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