The soundtrack to Todd Haynes’s not-quite biopic of Bob Dylan, easily among the most influential musicians of his generation, could double as a study guide to this generation of indie rock all-stars. Unsurprisingly, the same director who chose six actors to portray Dylan’s multiple personas would turn the soundtrack into an experimental playground for literally dozens of musicians. Given that indie music is itself a crazy quilt of genres, united by an affinity for original songwriting, with an uneasy relationship with mainstream success, it makes a certain amount of sense. Two “house bands” provide the backup: Tucson-based Calexico play most of the folky numbers, while the electric songs are covered by the Million Dollar Bashers, who were assembled from members of Sonic Youth, Television, Wilco, and Dylan bassist Tony Garnier. Standouts include Stephen Malkmus handling “Ballad of a Thin Man,” Charlotte Gainesbourg’s breathy “Just Like a Woman,” and Sufjan Stevens’ “Ring Them Bells.” Dylan himself shows up on “I’m Not There,” an oft-bootlegged outtake from The Basement Tapes available here for the first time. But Thurston Moore’s vocals on the same song are pretty arresting, too. Purists will note that many of the covers sound nothing like the man himself — say, Karen O “oooh-ooh -ing” through “Highway 61 Revisited” — though in this case, the play is the thing. -
About the Author
Amy Benfer has worked as an editor and staff writer at Salon, Legal Affairs, and Paper magazine. Her reviews and features on books have appeared in Salon, The San Francisco Chronicle Book Review, The Believer, Kirkus Reviews, and The New York Times Book Review.