Jesse Jarnow

modern times, huh?

So, the name of the new Bob Dylan album, due out August 29th on Columbia, is Modern Times. In name, anyway, it is good and resonant and oh-so-Boblike, both perfectly vague and utterly precise. It’s also a bit ambitious, a tad pretentious, and surely not a little tongue-in-cheek, but — hey — that’s why he’s Dylan. The first point of reference that pops to my mind is the classic Charlie Chaplin picture. I’m also reminded, to a lesser extent, of the two “Hard Times” — Charles Dickens’ novel and Stephen Foster’s song (which Dylan covered on 1992’s Good As I Been To You — both of which use the title phrase as synonymous for “modern times.”

It’s wonderfully multi-purpose, too. The first page of Google results (without quotes) returns listings for the Chaplin flick, a San Francisco book store, and an outfit that operates Scandinavian television stations. Searching with quotes, one also discovers a Chicago furniture outlet. And the Google Book results? Rural France, contemporary Japan, mathematical thought, Jews of the Middle East and North Africa, Don Quixote, 20th century storytelling, and those are just in the first ten hits. It is a phrase that is as well-circulated as it is slippery. Go ahead, try to define it.

In the liner notes to 1993’s World Gone Wrong, Dylan described the music of the Mississippi Sheiks as “raw to the bone and… faultlessly made for these modern times (the New Dark Ages).”

Meanwhile, while yer pondering and waiting for August, catch up on the latest Theme Time Bobcasts.

UPDATE:’s new blog has some more details, including a few song titles: “Ain’t Talkin’,” “Thunder on the Mountain,” “Spirit on the Water,” “Workingman’s Blues,” “When the Deal Goes Down,” and “Neddy More.”

1 Comment

  1. Randy Ray says: - reply

    And as soon as it is released, it will be something back along the road that he won’t even proclaim as his own or won’t even recognize or won’t even KNOW that he wrote and that’s just how we like him, eh?
    Ironically (convergently? sychronocity?), I’m listening to Ghost is Born while reading this during a break from work…at least that’s what you said…piano archery meets Neil Young.
    Thanks for the Bob scoop.

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