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Best of the 00s: Bob Dylan, Fiona Apple & Gillian Welch

Posted by February 5th, 2011 No Comments »

Best of the 00s: Gabe Joins the 21st Century
Part 15: Bob Dylan, Fiona Apple & Gillian Welch

Nada Co-founders Matt and Gabe are listening to 197 of the music press’s picks for “best albums of the 00s” for a series called Gabe Joins the 21st Century.

Bob Dylan – Love & Theft
#41 on Rolling Stone’s list

Matt: Part of the reason we’re delinquent in getting this review up is this: I hate it, and I think that makes me a terrible person. After all, Bob Dylan is an American icon and one of the most notable songwriters in the history of recorded music. He gave us Blonde on Blonde and Highway 61 Revisited for crissake’s. Why, then, does this – widely considered a modern classic and among his best work – sound comically bad? The opening track, “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum,” has a similar vibe as Dylan’s excellent Traveling Wilburies contribution “Tweeter and the Monkey Man,” but the album quickly degrades in to boring, adult contemporary schlock. With the mixture of genres –  there’s a little blues a little rockabilly and a little old-timey balladry – one could almost hope Love & Theft is actually a parody, but Dylan’s unmatchable voice dashes those hopes. Grade: DNL.

Gabe: OK. Fine. I admit it. I do not enjoy Love and Theft either. I do not think it is a good album. I think Dylan is old and revered and he can poop on a plate and the editors of Rolling Stone will declare that the poop is deeply insightful and wryly humorous. On the plus side, the album does have a line that I used for a knock knock joke that cracks my kids up. The punch line: “Freddy or not, here I come.” Grade: DNL.

Go ahead and find that "Criminal" video on Youtube now. You know you want to.Fiona Apple Extraordinary Machine    
Rolling Stone #49  

Gabe: Fiona Apple performs intelligent, interesting piano-based pop songs with clever lyrics and powerful vocals. Sometimes she reminds me of Bob Dylan when she’s all arrogant and witty and mean at the same time. (i.e. “I opened my eyes while you were kissing me once/And you looked as sincere as a dog.”) But query whether I would enjoy the album as much absent the video loop of the “Criminal” video that runs in my mind whenever I listen to Extraordinary Machine. Aw hell, I probably love this album more than I care to admit. Grade: Like

Matt: I’m convinced Fiona’s the kind of girl who could have me eating out of her hand while simultaneously berating me and making me feel stupid, so it’s difficult to actually pay attention to her music without testing that assumption. She reinforces this belief with tough-girl lyrics designed to make male arm hairs stand on end: “You silly stupid passtime of mine / you always were good for a ride” and “…while I figure out how to kill what I cannot catch” and “better I break a window than him or her or me” to name just a few. Unfortunately, her music does not match the intensity of these lyrics, instead opting for pedestrian piano balladry. Title track “Extraordinary Machine” is lovely with a good message for the kids and an old timey feel, but otherwise this is just too forgettable, musically. Grade: DNL

Are those couch cushions adorable or what?!Gillian Welch – Time (The Revelator)    
Paste’s #7

Gabe: Wowwee zowwee. I was vaguely aware of Gillian Welch from her work on O Brother Where Art Thou.  But I sure couldn’t have picked her out if the country chanteuse police stuck her in a lineup with say Patty Griffin, Alison Krause, Neko Case and four random Nashville hopefuls. Now, after approximately 17 listens in the past 48 hours, the title track of Time (The Revelator), is, like Craig Finn would say, scratched into my soul. Welch’s songs are superficially traditional, in the old timey country, bluegrass, folk vein of O Brother. But instead of being a genre exercise, Welch’s songs are alive. They stalk a stark landscape, deliberately, like a Clint Eastwood character. I know that sounds like bullshit, but the way Welch sings and the way the acoustic strings are attacked on every note makes these songs feel punk and timeless. Grade: LOVE

Matt: Great songs and a gorgeous voice, but the soft folky delivery is a bit snoozy for my taste. I adore the sneak peak she gives us into the life of an unsigned touring band on “April The 14th Part 1,” but I’d like hear Gillian follow through on her plea in “I Want To Sing That Rock And Roll” and bring a bit more Patti Smith and a bit less Mary Travers. Grade: LIKE

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