Nobel prize-winning songwriter follows 17-minute Murder Most Foul with I Contain Multitudes, referencing everything from Edgar Allan Poe to William Blake and the Rolling Stones
Bob Dylan has continued to release his first original music in eight years, with a song in which he compares himself to Anne Frank, Indiana Jones, the Rolling Stones and William Blake.
At four and a half minutes, I Contain Multitudes is less lengthy that the song he returned with, Murder Most Foul, a 17-minute long track about the JFK assassination. Like that song, though, I Contain Multitudes is drifting and percussion-free, backed here by acoustic, electric and pedal steel guitars.
The 78-year-old songwriter announced it with a hashtag-strewn tweet: “#today and #tomorrow, #skeletons and #nudes, #sparkle and #flash, #AnneFrank and #IndianaJones, #fastcars and #fastfood, #bluejeans and #queens, #Beethoven and #Chopin, #life and #death.”
I Contain Multitudes lays out a wry but proud assessment of his own songwriting and personality. In one verse he sings:
I’m just like Anne Frank, like Indiana Jones
And them British bad boys, the Rolling Stones
I go right to the edge, I go right to the end
I go right where all things lost are made good again
I sing the songs of experience like William Blake
I have no apologies to make
Everything flowing all at the same time
I live on a boulevard of crime
I drive fast cars, and I eat fast foods
I contain multitudes
Elsewhere he compares himself to gothic writer Edgar Allen Poe, while another line says “I rollick and I frolic with all the young dudes”, a reference to David Bowie’s song All the Young Dudes. Violence and death fringe the apparently calm mood, too: “I carry four pistols and two large knives … I sleep with life and death in the same bed”.
Dylan’s return to original songwriting comes after three covers albums, Shadows in the Night (2015), Fallen Angels (2016) and the triple album Triplicate (2017). The songs are his first new work since winning the Nobel prize for literature in 2016.
Murder Most Foul was critically acclaimed on its release last month, with the Guardian’s Alexis Petridis heralding its “dense and intriguing lyrics … musically, it’s unlike anything Dylan has done before”. Rolling Stone also praised it, saying it is “about the ways that music can comfort us in times of national trauma”.