Bruce Springsteen: Wrecking Ball

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Posted May 30, 2012 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0
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Born to Burn: Springsteen’s 2012 effort injects his loudest dose of Americana into Occupy protest songs

In a post-Occupy Wall Street world, Bruce Springsteen temporarily drops his E Street Band leanings to craft an Americana roosty-feeling experiment that portrays his strongest grip on his inherited Dylanness. Certainly a record like this is expected to sound dark, gloomy and hostile. And although Wrecking Ball exposes the devilish corruption of our reality, the glimmers of hope still finds a way to peak through the clouds. When the Boss sings the lyric, “The hurricane blows, brings a higher rain/When the blue sky breaks feels like the world’s gonna change,” on “Jack of All Trades,” you really start to believe it. Even as the album’s messages become more and more cryptic, like on “Death to My Hometown,” the template behind the song’s upbeatness gives the album a more satisfying, proactive approach to dealing with life’s bullshit. “Shackled and Drawn,” one of the album’s careful examples of optimism, finds a way to talk about hard times while merging gospel chants with festive Irish attributes akin to Riverdance. And it is that kind of incision that shatters all laws of expectancy, earning Springsteen the kind of hearty, folksy display that branded the work on Nebraska.

The bright opener “We Take Care of Our Own” and the fervent buildup of the six-minute title track puts Springsteen right into what most have familiarized him with. The latter enjoys a punchy, rock n’ roll shuffle that shines with hearty tambourines, vibes and supportive strings. And he goes for inventive strains of alt-rock when Tom Morello swerves his wailing guitar into a display of psychedelic distortions on Springsteen’s Coldplay-ish worn ballad “This Depression."

Springsteen even evokes a sweet dose of sampling into Wrecking Ball‘s makeup; territory that is something entirely new to the rock legend. But don’t be alarmed, he creates art with his mix mashes and not just going for the obvious pop-worthy clutter. He takes church chants of a 1942 campmeeting and uses it to open “Rocky Ground" while separating the wheat from the tare (“Forty days and nights of rain washed this land/Jesus said the money changers, in this temple will not stand”). Even Michelle Moore is giving a featured slot to spit out Kanye West wisdom (Rap on Springsteen, what?).

The album’s finishers, “Land of Hope and Dreams,” creates an unforgettable moment when engineers sew a sax solo from the late Clarence Clemons into the mix, while Springsteen recants a familiar Curtis Mayfield line into the far distance. And if that isn’t enough, “We Are Alive” gives voice to the dead as its heavy display of rural Tennessee Valley banjo-anchored party (“We are alive/And though our bodies lie alone here in the dark/Our souls and spirit rise/To carry the fire and light the spark”). Somehow through Springsteen’s eyes, using some of the pathos of Paul Simon’s So Beautiful or So What, death doesn’t sound so morbid and painful.

J MATTHEW COBB

HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: 05 March 2012
  • Label: Columbia
  • Producers: Ron Aniello, Bruce Springsteen
  • Spin This: “We Take Care of Our Own,” “Rocky Ground, “Land of Hope and Dreams”

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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