To guide your summer getaway book selections, try this formula: E=FB²
It’s All Over Now
In lieu of new music from Nick Lowe, there’s this previously-not-officially-released swan song of the group in which he cut his chops. It’s just as well that it didn’t come out when new. Its mixture of romantic ballads, dry wit, golden oldies, and sock-hop silliness would’ve surely puzzled the mid-1970s masses. “Cruel to Be Kind” probably would’ve too. Four years later, slowed down and echoed up, it wowed ’em but good. There really is such a thing as being ahead of one’s time.
Lust For Life
Lana Del Rey
Del Rey continues to defy expectations, both those of her naysayers (who pegged her as a flash in the pan) and those of her champions (who maintain that there’s substance beneath her glamorously decadent affectations). This time, the former have to explain the dreamy attractions of “Love” and how its concern with today’s “kids” blooms later into the attractively dreamy “Coachella—Woodstock in My Mind.” The latter have to explain why, four official albums in, she hasn’t realized that overdoing profanity gives glamorous decadence a bad name.
Iconic: Message 4 America
The idea seems simple: record a bunch of funky 1960s and ’70s brotherhood anthems (with the Beatles, Bacharach/David, and recitations from the Declaration of Independence for inclusiveness), spare no expense where musicianship is concerned, show the woofers no mercy, and, voilà, a why-can’t-we-just-get-along soundtrack for these house-divided times. Too bad that the spoken bit in the Pointer Sisters cover turns the project into a Trojan horse by equating opposition to “climate change” and the “hetero-patriarchy” with “sav[ing] the world.”
Positively Bob: Willie Nile Sings Bob Dylan
The original versions of eight of these 10 songs can be found on Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits and Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II. So what could Nile, a rock ’n’ roll journeyman who turns 70 next spring, possibly have to add or subtract that hasn’t already been added or subtracted a few dozen times before? When he and his band stick close to Dylan’s blueprints (a little over half the time), not much. Sometimes, though, they really do manage to shake the windows and rattle the walls.
When Joan Osborne performed her hit “One of Us” on Saturday Night Live 22 years ago, she wore a pro-abortion T-shirt, presumably to assure viewers that the song’s religious connotations weren’t code for latent conservatism. A similar inclination to “virtue signaling” afflicts her new album, Songs of Bob Dylan (Womanly Hips), most noticeably on “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” and “Tangled Up in Blue”: Leaving the sexes of the narrators’ love interests unchanged, she turns the songs into endorsements of lesbian romance.
Her moralizing sleight of hand isn’t limited to the LGBT realm. In “Masters of the War,” for instance, she retains “even Jesus would never forgive what you do” although Dylan himself has been leaving it out since 1978 (i.e., before he investigated Jesus’ forgiveness firsthand). At least she delivers “Ring Them Bells” faithfully. Maybe someday she’ll even realize that the line “and they’re breaking down the distance between right and wrong” applies to her as well. —A.O.