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Lefsetz on the new Dylan & Cat Power albums

PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 11:45 am
by garth cartwright
Just in case you are tiring of all the media fawning here is Bob Lefsetz doing what Lester Bangs, Julie Burchill etc used too.

Is this a joke?

Athletes retire, their bodies give out and they can no longer compete at a world class level. If you can't dance, they kick you out of the ballet company, if you can't sing, maybe you should stop performing?

What I hate here is no one will speak the truth. "Tempest" has gotten glowing reviews. And I'm not deep into it enough to judge the material, although I'm awaiting the "New York Times" article wherein it's revealed he stole the lyrics, hell, if they can bust Jonah Lehrer, they can bust anybody. But one thing's for sure, the vocals are horrible. So bad, they sound like your grandpa just woke up and is clearing his throat. A grandpa who sounds like Frankie Pentangeli in "Godfather II."

I'm a huge Dylan fan.

But I gave up going twenty years ago. I've got no problem with him rearranging his material, it keeps him interested, young and fresh, but that doesn't mean I care. It's like a bizarre crossword puzzle. You're sitting there listening, trying to divine what song it is by deciphering a lyric or two. It's kind of like opening the dictionary and trying to figure out which book was made out of the words..."Ulysses," "Portnoy's Complaint," "Fifty Shades of Grey"?

And at this late date, the story's not buried. But people go to the show like lemmings, to pay homage to what once was. Kind of like going to a baseball show to get Reggie Jackson's autograph. Or maybe going to a "Star Trek" convention to meet Spock.

If Dylan didn't have all those years ago hits, he wouldn't even be playing clubs. He'd be playing Holiday Inns. And no newspaper would review his material. People would laugh.

But ain't that America, wherein everybody knows the truth but no one can say it.

As for writing a song about the Titanic... Imagine Kanye doing this. Or even Don Henley. They'd be excoriated.

Give me a break.

And while I've got your attention, who did Cat Power blow to get all that publicity?

One thing I love about these records by critical darlings is they come and go in an instant. Anybody talking about Fiona Apple anymore? No, that was two months ago! And the only people talking about Cat Power's album are members of the press corps. There's no buzz, no virality, just old men manipulated by a sexual being and a cadre of women getting behind a bizarre form of girl power.

Come on, Cat Power got her chance. She failed. Is she really that different from Lana Del Rey?

Has-beens and alta kacher never-beens just can't believe that the era has changed, that the past no longer rules. They make albums in an era of singles. They hype them upon release not knowing it's about longevity as opposed to a singular impression. Hell, that's what Spotify is all about, you get paid when people continue to listen to your music, not when someone buys it. How many albums have you purchased and played once or barely more? The company got just as much money from you as they did when you bought an album and played it ad infinitum. Is this the paradigm we want to prop up?

I've got no problem with Dylan and Power making albums. But I do have a huge problem with mainstream media fueled by ancient record companies and aged publicity people going on and on about stuff that is marginal and most people don't care a whit about.

Hell, there's more innovation in Psy's "Gangnam Style" than in both of the above projects. He created something intriguing, that you can't take your eyes off of, that is subversive.

Once upon a time, Bob Dylan was subversive. Now he's just an old man who doesn't know what to do with himself but go on tour. Maybe he should stay home and hang with his grandchildren, write about that, it'd be more interesting than any music he makes.

As for Cat Power...

With the barrier to entry so low, with anybody able to make a record, the concept of a critic's darling, one who wasn't that good to begin with, is passe.

Just like the critics themselves.


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Re: Lefsetz on the new Dylan & Cat Power albums

PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 1:15 pm
by john poole
Lefsetz is certainly not Lester Bangs or even Julie Burchill as far as I'm concerned - I received his newsletter for a while, but unsubscribed after rarely making my way through to the end of his generally tedious posts, and reading his suggestion that a female artist had to "blow" someone is not going to alter my opinion.

Re: Lefsetz on the new Dylan & Cat Power albums

PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 2:20 pm
by garth cartwright
John, I don't say Bob is Lester or Julie - just this is a ranting review in their style. And enjoyable it is too. I like LA Woman. You don't. I like Bob Lefsetz - for all his flaws he is one of the few commentators out there trying to deal with our brave new musical world order. You don't. Plus ca change. As for "who did she have to blow" - crude but funny. Lester and Julie could both be a lot cruder - Lester on Dylan's Desire is vicious and contains language that I doubt would get printed today. Thing is, he was right. As is Lefsetz. To expect criticism to be polite is missing the point.

Re: Lefsetz on the new Dylan & Cat Power albums

PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 4:54 pm
by Adam Blake
I have it on very good authority that Lefsetz is an irritating egomaniac who expects to be treated as a VIP. That doesn't make him a bad writer but his prose style does seem to have deteriorated noticeably in the last couple of years, since he became so enamoured of his own status as the "voice of truth" in the American music industry. I think he is a fame and fortune groupie and, generally speaking, he has execrable taste in music.

Re: Lefsetz on the new Dylan & Cat Power albums

PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 10:33 am
by garth cartwright
I agree with you, Adam - his taste is generally terrible. But I got sent the Cat Power album and it is a dog. And I've heard couple of tunes off the new Dylan and they - predictably - do not match the hype. Yet Andy Gill (Indie) and the writers in the other broadsheets and Mojo and Front Row and such all reach for the standard fawning cliches when dealing with Dylan - it's like he's the Prophet and you cannot criticise him. As least Lefsetz has some balls here and does not just "go with the flow". What happened to good, critical British music writing? There once was so much to choose from. Now it just seems so bland.

Also, I have it on good authority that Lester could behave really badly and had terrible personal hygiene. Doesn't devalue his writing at all.

Re: Lefsetz on the new Dylan & Cat Power albums

PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 1:43 pm
by Adam Blake
Lester was an alcoholic and drug addict. Of course he behaved badly and his personal hygiene was legendarily bad. But he never, ever, ever kissed up to fame or wealth. Ever.

Leftsetz does it in virtually every column.

I hold no torch for Dylan. I think he should have retired from making music and stuck with DJ'ing - something he obviously enjoyed and was very good at. If Lefsetz had, instead, criticised the critics you so rightly castigate for their foolish Emperor's New Clothes attitude to Dylan, I would have admired his honesty. But criticizing Dylan for not being able to sing is a bit like pointing out that David Cameron is a Tory.

Re: Lefsetz on the new Dylan & Cat Power albums

PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 10:24 am
by john poole
Reviewers going over the top in their praise for a new Dylan album started with the Rolling Stone review of New Morning in 1970 (Paul Morley takes the prize this time with his comparison to Blonde on Blonde on Newsnight Review) it's hardly a a new thing, and if critics are "passe" (some truth in that, perhaps) why should anyone worry about what they write or say?

I have heard Dylan's latest - a minor, but not unenjoyable work in the main; would have made a better 38 minute album than a 68 minute one, it flags rather during the last two or three tracks including the Titanic epic and the Lennon song. A few of the lyrics do seem as if they might have been written in the back of the limo when he was being driven to the studio. Rather similar to his last two albums, but maybe the best of the three - anyone who enjoyed those should like this - if not then don't bother. His voice has been shot now for several decades, but I still find him easier to listen to than say Tom Waits or C.W. Stoneking. Given the choice I'd probably have preferred to have had another series of Theme Time Radio Hour, but I hope he doesn't retire for a while yet and continues to defy the gospel according to Bob Lefestz.

Re: Lefsetz on the new Dylan & Cat Power albums

PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 12:08 pm
by NormanD
john poole wrote:Given the choice I'd probably have preferred to have had another series of Theme Time Radio Hour...
...and a second volume of his memoirs (including further info on the film of Robert Johnson he claims, in volume one, to have seen?

I've gone from liking Dylan to liking the idea of what he once meant to me. It's hard to put across the difference, but it comes down to not being disappointed any more. He's done more than enough to keep me happy; and old, previously unseen photos, are far more satisfying than new studio work.

Dylan just keeps rolling on. His new work invariably is a let-down and, in the meantime, his record co. keeps the long-term fan base temporarily sated with archive jewels in the growing 'Bootleg' series.

He remains the enigma he's been for the last fifty years. One day, like all of us, he will die. But, unlike most of us, his enigma will grow even stronger, and he'll still be on his never-ending tour.

(For my next blog entry, expect comments on Apple's new product launches and the implications for investment growth in the new tech sector)

Re: Lefsetz on the new Dylan & Cat Power albums

PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 12:43 pm
by Adam Blake
NormanD wrote:I've gone from liking Dylan to liking the idea of what he once meant to me.


Nice one, Norman. Dylan contributed so much in the 60s, anything else he has managed is a bonus. That amongst the "anything else" there is at least one superb piece of work ("Blood On The Tracks") is testament to what an astonishing talent he was.

Re: Lefsetz on the new Dylan & Cat Power albums

PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 2:49 pm
by garth cartwright
Excellent post, Norman. Yes, his enigma will live on after him and once the hype dies down people will inevitably listen to those seminal 60s albums, Blood On The Tracks and a handful of other gems - there's probably a good compilation to be made of strong songs on duff albums (Brownsville Girl, Every Grain Of Sand, Jokerman, Blind Willie McTell etc).

By the by - anyone who likes good Bob should check out Hurray For The Riff Raff, a young New Orleans band who mix country and folk and rock. They are lead by a young woman who - unlike Bob - did actually hobo for a bit. I saw them in Brighton on Tuesday and they were magnificent. Alynda is a strong songwriter and singer and her band play really well. I think Bob would like them.

Re: Lefsetz on the new Dylan & Cat Power albums

PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 8:31 pm
by john poole
NormanD wrote:further info on the film of Robert Johnson he claims, in volume one, to have seen?
Well you can see it here -
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSV69BO2Uak
it's not Robert Johnson

a second volume of his memoirs
Two more volumes were included in the "six-book deal" Bob signed last year
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/ja ... -book-deal