Bob Dylan is at his best when his songwriting is fuelled by anger. From the political outrage of “Masters of War,” the personal outburst of “Like a Rolling Stone,” the lovelorn bitterness of “Idiot Wind” and onward into the religious warfare of “The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar”: his poetry grows more visceral and his voice more biting when there’s an undercurrent of rage.
“Pay in Blood,” perhaps the best track on his 2012 album Tempest, is a case in point. It’s the song of man whose back has been to the wall too long, who has finally sharpened his weapons and is ready to strike back in force. Punctured by a brilliant refrain — “I’ll pay in blood … but not my own” — it’s a frightening but wickedly funny exercise in righteous anger.
This is not the kind of person you want to meet in a dark alley at night. “I got something in my pockets make your eyeballs swim,” he sings, in a line that shows Bob Dylan’s special skill to make a weird image somehow fit perfectly. Less mysteriously but equally fear-inspiring, he adds: “I got dogs could tear you limb from limb.”
As the rhythm marches on, Dylan fires his outrage upon his enemies, letting the words spin out of control and torturing every syllable into ammunition for his rage. No one can stop him, and he knows it. As an angry young man, Bob Dylan had very few rivals; he is still in a league of his own as an angry old man.
Latest posts by Kasper Nijsen (see all)
- Indigo Girls, “The Rise of the Black Messiah” from One Lost Day (2015): One Track Mind - July 21, 2016
- Sixto Rodriguez, Jan. 22, 2016: Shows I’ll Never Forget - January 25, 2016
- David Wiffen – Coast to Coast Fever (1973): Forgotten Series - January 13, 2016