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The Freedom Spark & Modern Times

The Freedom Spark, Larrikin Love (Infectious)
Modern Times, Bob Dylan (SonyBMG)

Given the buzz surrounding Larrikin Love, you’d think they’d colonised Mars and, just to cap it off, beat up the Pope. In fact, they’re a relatively good indie band who’ve just released a relatively well-realised first album. In some ways, it’s a logical step up from the scrawny melodic genius glimpsed at in their demos. ‘Six Queens’, is a case in point, like Dirty Pretty Things moved on from The Libertines, Larrikin Love have made their sound harder, faster and tighter for their first full-length release. The debt Edward Larrikin and co. owe to that band is clear, in the Albion-influenced lyrics, fey vocals and ragged guitar shuffles. One main difference is the occasional appearance of Irish folk elements, and at times something that might just be calypso. This musical magpie-ing works best on ‘Happy As Annie’, where an off-beat skank and jigging fiddles mask a dark lyrical core. In the crammed-in rhymes its easy to miss at first the rather unpleasant tale of rape in a field that leaves Edward choked with fear. For those familiar with the band there are only three new songs, all not among the best, but definitely growers. But whatever your level of prior knowledge, the uproarious joy in this riverdance-rock ought to be persuasion enough. All hail the new lords of the dance.

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At the end of the day, who am I to review Bob Dylan? Unlike the green horns making up the rest of this section, Modern Times, marks the 32nd studio album the old crank has released. Think about that for a moment thirty-two! At 65, he’s also now the oldest person to go straight in at number one of the American charts. And he must be doing something right. Here, it’s a well-worn combination of rollicking roots music, the deft lyricism that sets him above mere musical acclaim, and the age-torn voice that has divided critics for more than forty years. He croaks, snarls, grumbles and mumbles, and sometimes slips into what could kindly be described as a death-rattle. It roughs up the swing ballads and fires up the roaring heart of his blues numbers. In the 30 years since 1966, he’s crashed a bike, split from his wife, found God, sucked in the 80s, and somehow come out of it all with a rough-neck road-dog dignity that’s truly outstanding. Modern Times, is not Bringing It All Back Home. It’s not Blood On The Tracks, either. But it’s the raw distillation of all the living Bob Dylan has done over 65 years and 32 studio albums. Now come on what have you done with your life?

ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Richard O’Brien was born in Peterborough in 1990, and has been trying to escape ever since. He is currently still trying to get an education, and resides in a Lincolnshire village with his parents and his labradors with nautical names. He likes to act, listen to music, and write songs that will never be sung.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, October 15th, 2006.