Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The End of the World is Nigh, if We’re Lucky

Recent events have led me to consider the possibility that the apocalypse may well be upon us after all, despite my previous confident statement to the contrary. The good news (if it can be called that) is that, given the horrific nature of this particular tragedy, it’s likely that at least some folks will actually start looking forward to the end of time.

There’s no good way to sugar-coat this, so I’m just going to come right out with it: Bob Dylan has released a Christmas album.

Quibble if you want with the fact that this “news” is actually more than a month old—the album was released on October 13, 2009—but to do so runs the risk of missing the fundamental point here, which is, at the risk of repeating myself, that Bob Dylan has released a Christmas album.

Now, before I get carried away, I should take time to make a couple of things perfectly clear:

1. I don’t hate Christmas music. I do wish that, even during the heart of the actual Christmas season (not to be confused with the Christmas retail season, which is roughly fifteen months longer), the stores I have to visit would sprinkle in a non-Christmas song every ten or twenty minutes. The universal Department Store Approved Christmas Song playlist is only about six songs long, and for me the repetition gets very old very quickly. And I do get more than a little irritated when I hear Christmas songs in stores well before Thanksgiving, or even before I’ve even finished my Halloween candy.1

2. I also don’t hate Bob Dylan. I’m not especially familiar with his work beyond the tracks that would end up on a greatest hits album,2 and I’m certainly not one of those self-important fans that humps his leg by calling him a prophet, but he’s not bad. In fact, I’m listening to him as I write this, in the hopes that I’ll be inspired by whatever the hell it is he’s trying to say.

Bob Dylan is, without a doubt, an intriguing and insightful lyricist and a gifted songwriter. “Shelter from the Storm” is one of my all-time favorite songs; “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Positively 4th Street” seethe with fascinating anger, and “Highway 61 Revisited” has that awesome Sideshow Bob whistle in it. “It Ain’t Me Babe” is great, too, although Johnny Cash did it better.3

I may be wrong here, but my assumption is that people who listen to Christmas music—and, more to the point, buy Christmas music—do so not because they want to hear an original, brand-new Christmas tune (name a good Christmas song that’s come out in the last thirty years) but because they want to hear an old, old, old song reinterpreted and revitalized by a gifted musician.4

And the obvious problem with Bob Dylan—and, thus, the main reason that I fear his Christmas in the Heart album is a sign of the apocalypse—is his voice. I’m not quite deluded enough to believe that I’m the first person to notice that his voice tends to suck, but yes, his voice does kind of suck.5 But even Dylan’s biggest fans, in their best efforts to put a positive spin on a voice that sounds like a man swallowing a clump of burning hair, can’t do much better than to use words like unique, distinctive, or unorthodox.

Good for these folks for their positive outlook and for having access to a Thesaurus, but let’s be honest, you could also use the words “unique” and “distinctive” to describe the sound of, say, a rhinoceros making love to a tuba, and that wouldn’t make me any more inclined to listen to it.6

You know who else has a distinctive and unique vocal delivery and enunciation? This kid here. He can barely stand, can’t remember to sing into his microphone, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t speak any English.7

If you’ve been waiting to hear a rendition of “O Come, All Ye Faithful” by a guy with a live, seizure-prone chicken shoved up at least one of his nostrils, now’s your chance. And if it’s narrow-minded for mocking this album without listening to it, I can accept being narrow-minded.8 The way I see it, the one thing that makes Dylan’s music truly interesting—his writing—is gone, and if my other option is to listen to him struggle his way through songs I’ve heard (by my count) around 1,600 times each, I’d prefer to hide out in my secret, soundproof underground bunker, crossing my fingers that Emmerich’s 2012 is actually a documentary.

1. I’ve been coming home with less and less Halloween candy since I hit my mid-thirties, but the songs seem to start playing earlier and earlier every year, so the change has been minimal.
2. Like, for example, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, which, not coincidentally, is the one Dylan album I have.
3. Johnny Cash had chunks of guys like Bob Dylan in his stool.
4. Which explains why Pat Boone’s In a Metal Mood was so totally, totally awesome.
5. And I’m the first person ever to notice it.
6. “Unorthodox” would apply if it’s the tuba that’s making love to the rhinoceros.
7. Of course, we all know that Paul is dead, but if he wasn't, I'm sure this video would make him feel good.
8. Which is a pretty broad-minded thing for me to say, isn’t it? Clever, huh?


  1. Doesn't everyone want to see a hippo pork a tuba? Anyway, I am dreading the Bob Dylan Christmas album so much that I will not buy it. Does that soothe your outrage, Guy?

  2. It doesn't soothe my outrage, but it's a start. That's one life saved from the trauma of the Bob Dylan Christmas album; I hope it won't be the last.