Thoughts On Bruce Springsteen's New Album

I always feel like Bruce Springsteen does his best work when his finger is on the pulse of the country. From Born to Run through Born in the USA, the albums and songs that turned him into a superstar spoke of the America that Springsteen lived in. I got into the Boss almost 10 years ago with the release of The Rising, an album that reflected the nation's sentiments following the September 11th attacks. Magic was a collection of songs in the shadow of the war in Iraq and the damage caused by the Bush Administration. Conversely, albums like Lucky Town and Working On A Dream don't have the same social focus that mark his most impressive work. I believe that Wrecking Ball, as a whole, falls into the former category.

It is impossible to listen to Wrecking Ball and separate it from the economic hardships that the country has been through in the past 4 years. But I can't imagine that Springsteen would want you to. Stylistically, it's almost like a cross between old-school Springsteen, the Seeger Sessions, and drum loops. Put those 3 things in a blender, turn it on, and you'll have this album. Everyone seems to be talking about the ironic nature of the open track, "We Take Care of Our Own," and the comparison to "Born in the USA"'s uplifting sound and depressing lyrics. But I want to move past that and touch on some other thoughts that I have.

"Easy Money," is a song from the classic point of view of a Springsteen character, and it's a great song to drive around to with the windows down (trust me - I have tested this theory). But the thing that struck me the most when I first heard it was the violin part. If you listen closely, it sounds strikingly similar to the violin part in "Into the Fire" from The Rising. Check it out.

One of the problems with being a musician and a music fan is that I can pick out certain chord progressions, and I wish I couldn't. Sometimes when I can pick out the progression of a song it takes away some of the enjoyment - probably because it loses some of the mystique - and that's how I felt the first time I heard "Jack of All Trades." I'm as big a Springsteen fan as the next person, but I sometimes wish he would use some more complicated chord progressions. But that aside, I see "Jack of All Trades" as this album's "Racing in the Street" - a piano-based ballad about a character who seems depressed but doing what he can to keep getting by. Also that outro solo by Tom Morello reminded me of the "Racing in the Steet" outro from Live/1975-85.

"Death to My Hometown" is one of my favorite songs on the album. I love the celtic influence a la Dropkick Murphys, and I think it has Bruce portraying the crux of the album: "The greedy thieves who came around/And ate the flesh of everything they found/Whose crimes have gone unpunished now/Who walk the streets as free men now/They brought death to our hometown, boys." If it weren't for the events that these lines reference, this album would not exist.

I was at the show at Giants Stadium where Springsteen first played "Wrecking Ball," so equating it to the economic crisis of the past few years is a little odd to me. And that's all I'll say about that.

I read a review of the album that said the song, "You've Got It," was far too vague to be effective. And I think its pretty freakin' vague, and honestly, not one of the best songs on the album. BUT the slide electric guitar sounds really awesome.

I'm not entirely comfortable with the rap section of "Rocky Ground." It feels somewhat out of place stylistically for Springsteen, but that's what someone else once said to me about "Let's Be Friends (Skin to Skin)" from The Rising. So, I guess I just have to open my mind, and the song as a whole is growing on me.

I was very skeptical about the new studio version of "Land of Hope and Dreams" the first few times I heard it. I am so attached to the Live in New York City version that I felt that anything else just wouldn't measure up. The first couple times I listened to it I thought about what made the original live recording so great - the fact that it was this band of friends being joined but thousands of followers, and they were all in the moment together expressing the sentiments of the song. But then I tried to open myself up to the new version and stop comparing it to the original, and you know what? It's actually pretty good. I don't know that it's going to replace the original in my heart, but just give it a chance.

So overall, I like it, though to be honest I'm still getting accustomed to it. And that's one of the problems with most reviews - they're very superficial.

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    © STEVE SCHULTZ