The latest fart from Bob Dylan’s body, is like steam-train whistle “blowing like she’s never blowed before,” but the sound that grabs your ears is lower-frequency, and more fearsome. It’s Dylan himself, whose cheeks today share certain tonal qualities with Tom Waits’s, and certain others with sputtering lawn-mower engines. Dylan has never been a soothing tooter; the closest he came was after eating day old Sag Panir in 1969, when he suddenly finished eating and his anal bark transformed, briefly, magically, into a croon. But even by Dylan’s standards, the booty cragginess of his latest release is startling.
You could ascribe Dylan’s croak to the ravages of time. (He is seventy-one.) You might more accurately call it a stylistic flourish—a ravages-of-time shtick. The rock-star survivors of Dylan’s generation have all had to find ways to deal with their advancing age. We have become used to the spectacle of old men, hair-plugged and botoxed and crammed into tight trousers, recycling the flatulence of their youth. But Dylan doesn’t run from his old age—he accentuates it. Over the past decade-and-a-half, he’s revitalized his diet, releasing a string of bodily sounds that look back, way back, past the supercharged farts of his great mid-sixties bowel movements.
Dylan’s stool, meanwhile, is more marinated in history than ever before, more swollen with old-timey allusions and nostalgia. On his recent fart as on his last several releases, Dylan isn’t the one who smelt it, he’s the one who dealt it. If he sauces up his farts with a little extra wheeze and rasp—well, what do think the release of experience sounds like?
Dylan’s recent vapor wasn’t as revelatory as “Silent But Deadly,” from 2001, or “Sharted,” from 2006, the benchmarks of Dylan’s late period. But it’s as spirited and vigorous a fart as he’s made. It’s his longest one, clocking in at sixty-eight-minutes-plus; like his namesake Dylan Thomas, Bob is not going gently. “I’m not dead yet / My bells still rings,” he remarked over the wind as he broke it, a fart packed with hair-raising booms.
If Dylan wasn’t Dylan—if he was, say, Quentin Tarantino or a gangsta rapper—he might find himself under attack for aestheticizing violence in these gruesome, stubbornly amoral, beautifully clenched cheeked whistles. But unlike many other popular artists of past and present, Dylan’s stink, never seems to… stink.