Trying To Get To You

Monday, March 05, 2012

The Failure Of Springsteen's Wrecking Ball


Let’s be straight with each other, shall we?
Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball is not a great album. In fact, it’s debatable whether relative to Springsteen’s body of work, it’s even a particularly good one. It evidences the same weaknesses that more than a little of Springsteen’s work has suffered from since his last masterpiece, Tunnel OfLove (1987); over-thought and over-intellectualized concepts that border dangerously on self-importance, backed by music that feels like it’s made by an artist who desperately wants to find new sounds that are the equal of his older ones, but who cannot quite locate them. It is an ambitious album and it is certainly a failure, one of the biggest of his career.
If Wrecking Ball is Springsteen honing in on the Great Recession and placing blame where he thinks it belongs, his chronic tendency to overthink things has him deliberately and needlessly link it lyrically it to past American crisis’, whether it’s the Great Depression, the Civil Rights Movement or striking railroad workers in the 19th century, which only diffuses the power of the songs for the present they are attempting to speak to. And the music, mostly folk based with touches of gospel, r&b, rock and inexplicably, Irish folk, has a modern sheen, but more often than not, it feels old, as though Springsteen is writing songs for the downtrodden workingman from 1937, not 2012.  It sounds like Springsteen has chosen to aim the gun--and has picked up a musket instead of an automatic weapon.
When Springsteen sings of “robber barons” and “cannonballs” in “Death To My Hometown;” or  “fat cats” on the woefully clichéd “Easy Money,” the ancient language makes everything feel embarrassingly impotent; it’s as though Professor Springsteen has taken over, and instead of powerfully addressing the breakdown in American society as it exists and is spoken of right now, he’s writing the songs to double as history lessons. What Springsteen has forgotten is that great political albums (whether it’s Dylan or What’s Goin’ On) speak and live in the present and then become timeless—they make history more than they sing about it.
Wrecking Ball’s first single, “We Take Care Of Our Own,” is firmly placed in the present as it lists all the places that we don’t take care of our own, but its ode to the E Street sound (yes, including glockenspiel) is all too shiny and glossy, brawny but empty. Producer Ron Aniello (Jars of Clay, Candlebox, Lifehouse) cannot (as Brendan O’Brien could not) find a guitar tone that sound anything other than, well, mainstream cheese. (For the great rocker he is, it’s inexcusable that Springsteen hasn’t had a consistently cool sounding guitar tone on record since 1984.)
Aniello and Springsteen produced the album pretty much as a duo, with Springsteen playing the majority of instruments himself and Aniello providing percussion and sampling. The samples are fine, but they provide little—they feel tacked on, obvious, and ultimately, unnecessary. And why Springsteen, one of the greatest rockers of all time, has chosen to work with the guy whose biggest credits are Jars Of Clay, Lifehouse and Candlebox is a mystery, other than the fact that they met through Aniello’s production of a Patti Scialfa album. The choice of Aniello evidences another breakdown in the Springsteen camp in recent years—the lack of collaborators who are at Springsteen’s level and can elevate him. At the end of the day, taste matters, and many of the production decisions made on Wrecking Ball exhibit a fatal amount of middling taste.
There are some fine moments on the album. “Shackled and Drawn,” despite its Irish lilt, is buoyant enough to overcome its arrangement. “This Depression” leaves the Irish folk by the wayside and with a beat straight out of “When The Levee Breaks,” has a yearning that and sense of loss that is affecting. “Land Of Hope And Dreams,” a great Springsteen song that he’s been playing since 1999, is rearranged and is far more effective rhythmically than it’s ever been with the E Street Band. “Rocky Ground” has an overtly gospel tone that uplifts. But none of these recordings, not a single one, is a classic, and every Springsteen album in the last decade, even Working On A Dream, has had its share.
You can’t fault Springsteen’s good intentions on Wrecking Ball. His passion and commitment is still palpable. But ultimately, this is an album that won’t make the sub prime mortgage guys at Goldman Sachs lose a single minute of sleep. At the end of the day, Springsteen has done no better than the Obama Administration to hold to account those responsible for the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. If anything, so far in 2012, Obama is having a far better year than Bruce.

20 comments:

Jerryi33 said...

Interesting take on the album. But, I totally disagree with your evaluation. For me, the songs connect a distant set of memories with the current situation in our society. The album is not btr or darkness, the songs not typical E Street material. I think, however, that the band versions in the live shows will bring new life to shackled and drawn, easy money, etc. And, I look forward to hearing them in Philly at the end of March.

Casino online said...

Hi,

Nice post! Your content is very valuable to me and just make it as my reference. Keep blogging with new post! Unique and useful to follower.

party poker bonus code said...

That sound well. The album is not brtter or darkness, the songs are my favorite However nice blog keep sharing.

John Z's Blog said...

This is Springsteen's Great Recession Record in the vein of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.
Just as we "needed" a Springsteen record after 9/11 (The Rising), we need a Springsteen record that speaks to this great economic injustice. Typically of Springsteen, his lyrics are in stark contrast to his music. These are songs that you want to play loud and even dance to (albeit an Irish Jig) but his lyrics speak of a much darker time for the people struggling in this great recession. What I felt was a throw away song (the title track - Wrecking Ball) when it was written just before Giants Stadium was knocked down - has now become what I believe is the most defiant song on the record. I can see many fans singing the verse "Hard Time Come & Hard Times Go, C'mon and take your best shot/Let me see what you got, Bring on your wrecking ball." And as is Springsteen's way - no matter how bad things get - he ends the record with songs of hope and inspiration. As ticked off as he is - he never fails to find the goodness in people, the strength of our nation's community and that there is HOPE.

CarolJude said...

My first impression was that it sounds like a good album but... it's not, it just SOUNDS like one. The production is deceiving; much better overall sound than OBrien ever got. Most of the tracks will fit in just fine on FM terrestrial in between Coldplay and Florence. I guess that's good but....
He's trying too hard and/or not enough. Lyrically it's trite bullet list after trite bullet list, with little in the way of the abstract and evocative word work he was once a master of.

tincanman2010 said...

Well said. It's what I've been saying, but said much better

ipad poker said...

Intresting layout on your blog. Best wishes for you future blogging career.

android blackjack said...

Google Plus is good, growing well.

Anonymous said...

jesus f'n christ. it's just an album. BS is not speaking to his youth audience anymore like he was 20-30 years ago. if your still looking for an artist to "speak to you" then read a book, listen to your what your kids like, go to a musuem - BS is a musician and he is putting an album (CD or whatever) out that he created with the ESB and was hoping that we like. if you like, great, if not stop worrying and go see him live. it's just an album.

Anonymous said...

I am in agreement with 'Anonymous'. Well said.

Anonymous said...

”Tis recorded of Mahomet, that upon a Visit he was going to pay in Paradise, he had an Offer of several Vehicles to conduct him upwards; as fiery Chariots, wing'd Horses, and celestial Sedans; but he refused them all, and would be born to Heaven upon nothing but his Ass.” (Jonathan Swift: ”A Tale of a Tub and Other Works”)
by the say, bye bye an easy day : http://storyambient.blogspot.fi/
… also Socrates traveled by ass, but still they poisoned him.

Anonymous said...

The way from Jonathan Swift "tube" for "storyambient" series make me happy, because we have not large area this kind of traveller here.

Rich said...

Great article. I'm a fan but have not been moved by much of his stuff in the last 10 years. I have a hard time listening to his voice nowadays. I know he's older but that "country twang" thing he does a lot of the time grates on me. Still, he is the Boss and a hell of a good guy from all accounts. i think he tries to do what is right all the time, and be great on record and live too, but that's got to be hard to try to sustain all these years.

Iftekhar Ahmed said...

I stumbles the post, that are beneficial, and your post is one of them.
Water Filters

Anonymous said...

http://www.mediafire.com/download/d0kho0b3f980pfx

Monster Race 3d Game said...

Content is the greatest source for expressing your feelings, throughts and precious time. Your post is fabulous and very meaningful.

SEO Expert said...

Glad to read your post :). It is very informative!

Web Design said...

I found your blog while searching in search engines, and it is a wonderful one.

Anonymous said...

http://www.mediafire.com/download/z897c7152532ti1/Bongley_Dead_-_Demo_n.3_(2014).rar

Digital Marketing Company said...

Some blog are written in a way that cannot be forgotten, inface everyone reads it all, you're is one of them. Thanks for the nice post.

Facebook Share