2 April 2012 Edition
The Boss’s new ‘Wrecking Ball’
Music Review: ‘The great challenge of adulthood is holding on to your idealism, after you lose your innocence’ – Bruce Springsteen
Springsteen has again created anthem-style songs such as We Take Care of Our Own and Land of Hope and Dreams
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN — ‘The Boss’ — has sold roughly 135million albums in his career. While most people wait for his latest production as loyal fans of the music, there is also a great number who wait to see what political statement he will make. The Boss (a title earned because of his willingness to collect and distribute the post-show money in the early days) has usually released albums that have been a reflection not only of his current emotional state and whatever demons he may be wrestling with but also of a specific time and place in American political upheaval.
Back in 1981, Springsteen expressed his political awareness, and his bleak outlook on small-town America with a classic album called Nebraska. It combined faded dreams, Springsteen’s disillusionment, and a wonder of where it all ends. Three years later, in 1984, the album Born in the USA propelled him to global superstardom. At the time it was subsumed into the Ronald Reagan election campaign but Springsteen fans still realised that he was making a stand AGAINST everything Reagan stood for.
Forward to 2002 and the release of the The Rising, which was Springsteen’s reaction to 9/11. It was seen as the response that America needed at the time: a combination of loss, fear and tragedy. This encouraged the thought of Springsteen as a chronicler of American times, one that he has grabbed on his just-released album, Wrecking Ball.
This album combines the worst and the best of Springsteen. The best is him in full-on, angry mode in the first half of the album, attacking political systems, banking, the loss of the American dream with lyrics such as “If I had me a gun, I’d find the bastards and shoot ‘em on sight,” and “The bottom’s dropping out/where you once had faith, there’s only doubt.”
Springsteen’s heart, as usual, is in the right place. He’s written songs with passion. He is never afraid to put forward pointed political statements and his vision of how America has fallen considerably short of ‘The American Dream’.
He has again created anthem-style songs such as We Take Care of Our Own and Land of Hope and Dreams, which will keep the arena crowds happy. And trust me: the songs on this album are written with a strong eye on Springsteen’s upcoming world tour.
But there’s a niggling worry that the album’s lyrics were written with the belief that this was expected of him, that the production was staged with a world tour in mind and that there’s a mixture of musical styles built in that were not meant to accommodate his writing but rather to give the album the widest possible market.
The sound is not so much E-Street rock than a mixture of country, blues, gospel, trad and even 12 backing singers thrown in as a choir. Eventually, you might start to think that it’s all a bit much but he is an expert on combining his complaints with sounds from around the world. He might think that this combines to represent the world but Bruce Springsteen’s world is red, white and blue and he is a spokesperson for what is wrong in that world (even if he does so from the mansion on the hill).