Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Bruce Springsteen's Wrecking Ball is, I guess, to the financial crisis as The Rising was to 9/11. Does it hold up to The Rising?  Tough to say, time will tell.  This Rising is a classic.  It also dealt with an event that was much more cut and dried than the meltdown. We were attacked by terrorists, people died that day. Despite that, Bruce sounds a bit angrier on Wrecking Ball, because, of course, this time we were attacked from within.  This time the attackers aren't on the run hiding in a cave; they're giving themselves bonuses, paying non-union workers to clean their yachts, bending the rules, and generally being celebrated by a large portion of the country.

I just painted in broad stroke, and that's what Bruce is doing on this album, he's not being too subtle. "Wherever this flag's flown/We take care of our own" is very slogan-y, but it works for me. We need rallying cries right now. And, in this era where people are calling basic heath care and retirement benefits "entitlements" (while arguing against any government regulation to any business, regardless of the harm certain businesses do to the environment, economy or our health)... I think reminding people that in America, some of us do want to take care of our own is a lovely, strong and ballsy sentiment. It's one that might have been echoed by a pretty high authority, as Bruce points out on "Jack Of All Trades": "We'll start caring for each other, like Jesus said that we might."

When I listen to the album, I think of the guy from "Factory," off of Darkness On The Edge Of Town. In that song, there was no real sense that things could get better, but it's shocking how much worse that they've actually gotten.  I think that that is sort of the theme of the album.   The mansions of fear and the mansions of pain are tough enough, now you're tellin' me they might not be here tomorrow, because you can get someone to work the working life for even less money? And if I get cancer, I'm out of luck?

Throughout the album, fat-cats steal money and party. It's not too thinly veiled, and it seems like some critics lament this lack of nuance.  I get it: but at the same time, sometimes you fight with finesse, and other times you're just so enraged you go for the roundhouse punch.

I do love that he ended the album with "American Land," which he first started playing on the Seeger Sessions Band tour, and is the one song from that era that he's brought to the E Street Band. It's one of my favorite Bruce songs, and, in my mind, a modern day folk classic. It ends the LP on a somewhat upbeat and optimistic note, which I think we needed.  It reminds me of "Reason To Believe" closing Nebraska.

Sonically, the album is a bit different for Bruce.  I was surprised that he didn't make the LP with producer Brendan O'Brien, who produced The Rising, Devils & Dust, Magic and Working On A Dream. Instead, he went with Ron Aniello, who produced one of Patti Scialfa's albums, and is more known for mainstream pop like Guster, Sixpence None The Richer and Jars Of Clay. Bruce and Ron recorded most of the tracks themselves, with a number of musicians helping out, including some members of The E Street Band. Max Weinberg plays drums on three tracks, Little Steven plays mandolin and sings on "American Land," Patti is all over the album, and there are even two solos by Clarence Clemons (on "Wrecking Ball," which the band performed towards the end of their last tour, and "Land Of Hope And Dreams," which they've been playing since the 1999 reunion tour). Extended E Street Band members show up: keyboardist Charlie Giordano is on a number of tracks (but Roy Bittan isn't on the album at all) as is violinist/singer Soozie Tyrell.  There are other familiar names including Steve Jordan, Lisa Lowell and even Bruce fan #1 Tom Morello. Bruce combines the big-band-party-like-it's-1939 sound of the Seeger Sessions Band with the anthemic power of E Street.  I suspect that if this was 10 or 15 years ago, he may have thought about using a different band on the road, but with the passing of Clarence and Danny Federici, I don't think Bruce wants to take another band on the road, and push back the next E Street tour a few more years.

He knows that to bring his most powerful messages to the people, he needs the E Street Band. Doesn't matter if the band didn't make the music, they are the best band to deliver it.  And really, who else is bringing it the way Bruce does, and has been doing, for decades?

These days, "selling out" and not "selling out" are almost antiquated ideas.  The very idea of worrying about it seems quaint. But I'm glad Bruce is still out there not selling out and keeping the faith. Since he did "41 Shots" on the reunion tour, Bruce has been expressing his beliefs and standing behind them, no matter what the cost in fans, dollars or headaches, and I'm glad he's still doing it.


Kevin Corcoran Jr said...

Bruce is really hitting it home with this one... home everywhere. I can't think of a single person who isn't affected by some of the concepts in this album... economic hardships, unemployment, etc. He's taken his story-telling to a new level with this very real and very powerful album. I admire his poise in the poetry and lyrics, standing tall and saying what he truly feels. The music is also incredibly moving, a big sound that is a perfect background for the even bigger words.

B. Ives said...

Hey Kevin, thanks for contributing to my blog. Although I can think of more than a single person who isn't affected - the folks who he aims his anger at! But I agree with you - I'm listening to the new album as I write this.