Lyrically, and spiritually at least they’ve been trying to find the new ‘Bob Dylan’ since, well, since the former Robert Zimmerman from Hibbing, Minn., broke through the din of the1960s folk scene in Greenwhich Village to tell the world that “A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall.” Yet while many singer-songwriters over the decade have tried the title on for size — voice of a generation — few have passed the test of time, digital music, and a wandering cultural attention span.
Perhaps listeners, ears accustomed to auto-tune inanity, could care less about lyrics anymore. Dylan’s new record, Tempest, came out with much marketing fanfare last week, and from the one track I’ve heard, it’s pretty good. Yet lyrically, Dylan’s best days seem behind him — and that’s OK, for even an aging, cynical and wealthy Bob Dylan is better than most of the crap out there.
But in the view of this writer, the lyrical claim to fame these days belongs to the obscure, the twisted, the relatively unknown and the deeply personal. And that’s why, while I’ll always be a Dylan fan, singer-songwriter John Darnielle is my new life coach.
Darnielle, front man for the intrepid band, ‘The Mountain Goats’ writes with demonic power and urgency, and like Dylan at his earliest and angriest, he senses the cultural zetgeist and tears at it with pen and rapid fire downstroke on his acoustic. The chorus to the first Darnielle song that grabbed me went like this:
“And Sonny Liston rubbed some tiger balm into his glove, some things you do for money and some you do for love, love, love.” (Love, Love, Love, The Sunset Tree)
Next song I heard: “St. Joseph’s baby Aspirin , Bartles and James; and you, or your memory…” (‘You or Your Memory’, The Sunset Tree)