‘Sometimes rock n roll has to wake up to it responsibilities and make them into great songs and Bruce Springsteen has done this.’
Never has an album been more timely and more perfect.
As an America torn apart from bankers implodes and the mainstream pop party goes to even more extreme ways to make everyone forget in its bread and circus parade, a 62 year old man makes an album that strikes right at the core of the malaise.
”ËWrecking Ball’ sings of the heartbreak of the collapse of a great nation, the rusting of hope, the filth and the greed of the super rich and the bankers that caused this collapse. Sometimes rock n roll has to wake up to it responsibilities and make them into great songs and Bruce Springsteen has done this.
He’s made a career of this kind of acute commentary but this time has never sounded more poignant, and never more American. The music the pours out of this album and its creator’s heart is one hundred per cent American stadium- the kind of anthems that have grown men arm in arm and in tears and critics scurrying in fear.
This is real blue collar people’s music from key album track ”ËDeath To My Hometown’ which sounds so much like Bruce’s new mates the Dropkick Murphys that he could almost be jamming out with them and that’s the crux of this album, because somehow, Bruce has raised the mantle of the Clash.
It was at Glastonbury a couple of years ago, in his headlining slot, that the boss with his new quiff and telecaster as machine gun looked like the elder statesmen the Joe Strummer we were never allowed to have. It’s like Strummer taking off Springsteen in the punk days and Bruce returning the compliment years later and combining the fire and potency of the Clash with his own impassioned belief in rock roll changing the world.
And this is interesting for someone from the punk generation because Bruce Springsteen used to occupy an awkward place for us.
In 1977 he seemed far to American, far too- well- healthy to fit in with our runty take on rock but as time went on you could never deny his passion and his songwriting. Bruce may never have been punk but he was its equal, an all American alien boy who wrote massive political anthems and took them into the heart of the empire- something that punk could never do.
The album’s lead off single ”ËWe take Care Of Our own’ is a great example of this- a Spector on steroids workout that is chest pumping passionate and heart breakingly on the case- the song says if the government and the corporations are screwing us then we will have to look after ourselves, its like the Tory’s fake homily ”Ëwe’re all in it together’ rammed back at their over fed faces. The song is classic Springsteen its huge and those signature glockenspiel chimes
The epic ”ËLand Of Hope And Dreams’ ”â is an old song and yearns with the wide open road of endless America that we used to read about in Kerouac- those endless plains and that sense of space and hope dashed by the immoral greed. The song is classic Bruce, his voice oozes emotion and passion as the melancholic tune unfurls with a power and beauty of its own.
The bankers get it in the neck from the Boss with the rootsy ”ËEasy Money’ with it’s country flavours and downbeat folksiness- again hinting at the Dropkick Murphys and the Pogues and their take on Ewan McColl’s classic ”ËDirty Old Town’ are invoked in that very natural space where punk and folk and rock n roll combine- the song has a great sing-along section to it as well, a real vagabond singlong.
”ËShackled And Drawn’ is another angry swipe at the goings on ”Ëup on the bankers hill’ whilst ”ËJack Of All Trades’ is a lush and stark ballad with Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine on Guitar- how cool is that!
The song is like one of those ballads that Tom Waits deals out and the two songwriters, who were once paired together at the beginning of their careers, are back at the same point- wise old veterans, two gnarly voiced troubadours who took different journeys but oddly run in a parallel, both documenting the reality of the American dream in their own idiosyncratic ways.
These are political times, revolutionary times and we just can’t bury our heads in the sand any longer, the dark forces are conspiring to crush the human spirit but the emotion and the power on this album is a rallying call for the goodness of the human heart and greatness of the real American dream to stand up and be counted.
Our relationship with America is so complex, on one level we cringe at being in its empire and on another we love its culture and its people. We love their belief in the power of goodness, their work ethic and their self belief whilst we hate its foreign policy (probably because its like our own but with big muscles) and we are baffled by its government. Bruce, though, whilst railing against the machine also reminds us of what’s great about America and what could be great about America.
”ËThis Depression’ is big drums and a gruff vocal detailing the dark clouds of depression over the land, ”ËRocky Ground’ takes a break from the folk fused flavour of the album with a slight hip hop flavour with its breakbeat- it’s an interesting idea and harks back to the Clash again- that idea that all rebel musics come from the same place and are there to be shared and fused. The song features a rap from Michelle Moore and, if not quite with the bombast of contemporary rap, is an interesting nod to a fellow street music whilst the song drips with religious imagery and has a brass band that sounds like a northern colliery brass.
The title track, ”ËWrecking Ball’ has an Appalachian folk gone electric flavour to it, and this is where Bruce is on solid ground- that merging of trad folk and modern electric is perfect for his forward looking and innate understanding of tradition that marks both his music and the lyrics whilst detailing the wrecking ball smashing America another songs of defiance with the power chords that make you feel alive classic Springsteen.
”ËYou’ve Got It’ starts with a stripped acoustic guitar and slapback vocal and builds with the slow burning fuse of classic songwriting with chords that go right back to heart of rock n roll and is a sonorous, powerful roll of a song.
”ËLand Of Hope And Dreams’ starts with a hollering blues gospel from Bruce aided by a gospel choir and then an idiosyncratic drum machine before the classic Bruce chords come in, this is the big music, there’s no time for subtlety, we need the big songs to tackle the big issues- can America still be the land of hope and dreams? The road trips and escapism of the early days seem along way away now.
”ËWe Are Alive’ is flavoured with Dylan and is full of the poetry of the disposed, it’s remarkable that after all those years of success that Bruce can still remember what it’s like out there, maybe the bankers should remember as well. The great things about this album is, that despite it being full of the righteous anger of the hard times it still oozes the Springsteen hope and the optimism that we could never understand in 1977 but have learned to love over the years. This is a music that not only offers anger and critique but attempts to find solutions and its belief in the power of people and the goodness of the human heart is a powerful saving grace.
2012 needs someone to stand up and be counted, there is dissatisfaction and danger on the horizon, and America needs the boss right now. Why its only the old timers and the millionaire rock stars that seem prepared to stick their necks on the line to make records this ambitious and this contemplative may have something to do with the wisdom of age- there are plenty of engaged younger artists out there as well and we need to hear their voices. Springsteen has thrown down the gauntlet”Â¦
Who’s going to take the mantle over here?