A fine example!

Here is theSpringsteen  applicable part of a fine discussion of the work of three icons in the music world: Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and (of course!) Bruce Springsteen. It makes some interesing and very valid points about what makes Bruce so special. And why he is such an inspiration for so many people, musicians, fans or anybody trying to do anything creative.

“And then by far the weirdest release of the three: Springsteen’s post-recession bitchslap Wrecking Ball.  I’ve been mildly obsessed with The Boss for years, and spent most of last summer driving despondently around Southern Ontario listening to The Darkness on the Edge of Town and Nebraska on repeat.  It’s all about that voice – Springsteen could write a song about how much he hates it when his peas get mixed in with the gravy and I would feel his anguish deep within me.  Which is probably why he gets away with writing about the working man’s struggle even thought it has been a good few decades since he was anything less than a millionaire.

On this record, though, Springsteen has his sights aimed a little higher than the usual all-American stories about ordinary folks and the tender love songs that have been the stuff of his past few albums.  As the bombastic first track, “We Take Care Of Our Own” signals, Bruce has his sights set on the very ideas that provide the mythic undergirding of America.  He hasn’t been this explicitly political since The Ghost of Tom Joad back in 1995, and it’s a welcome return.  But that is Springsteen’s home territory: what makes this a fantastic album to listen to are all the strange little touches he adds in the arrangement of what are, for the most part, not particularly interesting songs.  The rapping on “Rocky Ground“, for example, or Tom Morelo’s killer guitar solo on “This Depression“, or the gospel choir which recurs throughout the album.  While some have decried this as hokey, I think it is a truly artistic move – this is an album about America, and at this point America owes a lot more to hip hop, the soul tradition and drum loops than it does to traditional folk songs he channeled so well on We Shall Overcome.  

Bruce has long been lauded as one of the great songwriters of his generation, but I’ve long thought that one of his great gifts is his ability to surround himself with musicians just as talented as himself.  The death of the great Clarence Clemons has brought this a little more into focus, but what a crime it is that the E-Street Band has always been relegated to the far side of an ampersand.  It is this underplayed part of the Bruce Springsteen sound that makes this album brilliant – his famous voice takes its place among other voices, sometimes taking a backseat to them; the effect is the sense of an outpouring of sorrow not only by an individual but by the entire American people.  Whereas Tom Joad was effective precisely because Springsteen pared his focus down to particular stories of particular people and pared his music down to match, Wrecking Ball feels like the voice of a multitude.

Of course, the effect is partially caused by the obvious raggedness of Springsteen’s voice.  Like Cohen, Bruce’s music owes most of its substance to the complete harmony between delivery and message – he becomes the characters he sings about so completely that any failures as a lyricist become assets; we do not expect factory workers from Jersey to be poets.  This is how a rocker should grow old – with gravel in his throat, a newspaper in his hand, surrounded by musicians he respects, still listening to Top 40 pop radio.”

Do read the full post here!


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