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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Summer of Like

    OK, so it wasn’t quite the Summer of Love. Nobody seems able to take any risks anymore – every note, every phrase seems wrung to death in focus groups, which siphon off every last morsel of innovation. It all seems so safe, like the latest Coldplay album, which is less “la vida loca” and more “la vida vacio”. Concerts by the Police, Mark Knopfler, Bruce Springsteen were all cosily familiar, but rarely broke through the shimmery surface.

    So, what sort of events did manage to pierce the veneer? Well, here’s one. It is not often that Bob Dylan plays a small venue literally across the street from my house. And while I could not entice him to come hang out in brownstone Brooklyn, his two-hour show at the Prospect Park Bandshell was a little marvel of the magic of constant reinvention. Sure, many songs were of recent vintage, drawn from the “Modern Times” album – and these were in their fullest glory. Yet it was the classics, like “Rainy Day Woman #12 and 65” and especially “Masters of War” and “It’s All Right Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” – all more than four decades old now — were as immediate, raspy and biting as ever.

    By contrast, worshippers, in what a friend calls the Church of Bruce, or pilgrims to the Shrine of Sting and the boys do not want novelty, innovation, and risk. They want the comfort of familiarity. All the songs are still there, exactly as you remember them. That is the point- sing along. They want you to! Springsteen holds up his microphone and expects you to. Audiences happily oblige. Is it possible they are becoming the Beach Boys?

    Two new releases – one by a veteran band and one debut – merited multiple listens. REM’s “Accelerate” (WB) was one of the late spring’s most serious, artful, driving musical events. Gone were some of the languid ramblings of previous outings; here the band is in full gear, loud and gutsy, while sacrificing none of their melodious energy. Perhaps their best CD in the past decade is also a joy to come back to again and again. It defines the exhilaration of self-reinvention.

    Of newly discovered material, I am listening to the eponymous debut album by The Band of Heathens,a Texas-based roots quintet. Plying a vein that has been so historically rich, from Sir Douglas and the Allman Brothers to, well, just about everyone, the Heathens make the genre crackle with energy. This season, when Dylan came to Brooklyn, it reminded me most of The Band, jamming with equal parts wildness and precision, in the fillers of those early Dylan songs. Driving, bouncy, earthy and gutsy, it is among the season’s most notable debuts.

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