Music Section: Bruce “Boss” Springsteen Review
Review by Taylor DeBoer
Grade: B +
Of all the rock n’ roll elder statesmen, Bruce Springsteen is certainly the least complacent. Whether it be the sparse folk genius of Nebraska or the radio-friendly arena rock of Born in the USA, Springsteen has always been a working class troubadour (at times without merit) while gracefully straddling the line between classic and cheesy.
So before I threw on his most recent effort, I removed all those preconceptions (both good and bad) from my Boss memory, in order to attack its complexities with a clear head. After it was over, I came to two concrete conclusions: It wasn’t Nebraska (my favorite Springsteen album) and it wasn’t Born in the USA (my least favorite Springsteen album).
From there I drew several other conclusions: It wasn’t Ghost of Tom Joad, Darkness on the Edge of Town, The Rising, Asbury Park, or any other of Springsteen’s sixteen studio albums. Because of his prolific nature and desire to try something new – whether New Wave, electronic, drum-looping rap or not – Springsteen thinks big and sometimes misses.
For the most part, Wrecking Ball succeeds with its lofty aspirations and we have, surprisingly, the most Jersey-like album The Boss has released in over thirty five years.
“We Take Care of Our Own” is certainly not one of the album’s strongest tracks, but a fitting opening nonetheless. Its heavy guitar strokes and thumping drums leads perfectly into the Springsteen throwback, “Easy Money.”
The celtic/folk of “Shackled and Drawn” is one of those times where Springsteen misses. It’s repetitive and right when you think it’s gonna impress you, it slumps back into melodramatic verse.
“Jack of All Trades” first comes across as cliche, but then delivers beautifully. Remember what I said about Springsteen straddling the line between classic and cheese? The horns may add to the slightly over-produced nature of the album as a whole, but it’s still a very stark, real, and mesmerizingly retrospective.
In “Death to My Hometown” we’re once again hit with celtic Bruce, this time with an irish accent to boot. It isn’t good. It’s the only song on the record I couldn’t make it through.
“The Depression” has the echoey quality of 90s Springsteen which evokes some good and bad memories. It’s like a less schmaltzy “Secret Garden” minus Jerry Mcguire and so much “You had me at hello” parodies. It’s a solid track, but not memorable.
The title track, which was written about the literal wrecking ball that destroyed the ole Giants Stadium just a few years ago. Remember when I said the Jersiest of Springsteen? Yes, I know he has “Atlantic City” and an album named after Asbury Park, but “Wrecking Ball” evokes that rough-and-tumble, down and dirty, blue-chip Jersey more than any other song The Boss has released. And he’s able to do it even with Snooki and MTV defecating all over the boardwalk and Stone Pony legacy that he worked so hard to build. Who gives a shit about that graceful straddle – this song is cheesy and I love it.
“You’ve Got It” is solid guitar driven romp – less umph than “Wrecking Ball.” It has the albums first killer guitar solo. “Rocky Ground” has a rap. Yes, a rap. Springsteen misses here but gains street cred in the process. Ya win some and lose some.
If you asked me what song summarizes Wrecking Ball with the most valor and grit, it would certainly be “Land of Hopes and Dreams.” Although it means less now than if it were on Born to Run, this track is flawless. From the gospel intro, to the epic horns and guitars, to the simple acoustic strumming, to the literal and poetic lyrics – “Land of Hopes and Dreams” delivers better than anything The Boss has released since “The Ghost of Tom Joad.”
And we leave Wrecking Ball much like we started it – with the in-your-face radio-friendly arena fist pumping rock n’ roll. And of course, the celtic themes are back again for the third time.
Bruce Springsteen is an every-man that has evolved into a mega-star over the past forty years while managing to (somehow) remain the spokesman for the working man. After leaving a Titus Andronicus concert the other night, a friend mentioned the plethora of Springsteen references present in the post-punk band’s songs. After telling him that I didn’t see the influential connection, he quickly said, “Titus is from New Jersey, they have to love The Boss.”