Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball

Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball

3.5/5

2012

If Clarence Clemons’ sudden passing sparked fears that the E Street Band’s days were numbered, then Wrecking Ball proves that it just gave them even more of a reason to fight. And though it’s no masterpiece, Ball is arguably Springsteen’s angriest, most explicitly political album to date, and with America slipping into an unsure future of extreme opinion and economic turmoil, it couldn’t have been more timely. Opening with “We Take Care Of Our Own,” he alternates between bitter indictments (“There ain’t no help/The cavalry stayed home”) and ironic “Born In The U.S.A.”-style proclamations (“Wherever this flag is flown/We take care of our own”). It’s a rallying cry that sets the tone for the rest of the record, where he takes aim at all manner of “fat cats” and politicians that shift unnecessary burdens onto the working man. Admittedly, this doesn’t sound too different from past Springsteen sentiments, but there’s an unwavering devotion to message here that differentiates this record from many of his others. (And if for whatever reason the lyrics don’t tip you off, titles like “Death To My Hometown” and “This Depression” definitely will.) While it’s hard not to wish Springsteen would sometimes approach this subject matter in different or more creative ways, it’s equally as hard not to be caught up in his passionate fury, especially when he offers words of hope as the album winds down.

But there’s a good chance Wrecking Ball will most likely be remembered for its music. Springsteen has rarely taken so many chances in the studio, at least not on this scale. At its core, the album is a series of communal country-folk songs, akin to We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, but Springsteen and producer Ron Aniello pile loads on top, throwing everything they can at the wall to see what sticks. At times it pays off: the bristling energy of “Death To Our Hometown”‘s Celtic folk turns a protest into a pub singalong; the epic “Land Of Hope And Dreams” borrows from Woody Guthrie’s “This Train Is Bound For Glory” and features one of Clemons’ last sax solos; “We Take Care Of Our Own” charges on like prime Arcade Fire, themselves disciples of the Boss. Yet, at the same time, the stab at rap on “Rocky Ground” feels tossed off, and as a whole, the record sounds a bit bombastic and overproduced, as if intentionally drawing attention away from the occasional dips in songwriting. As Wrecking Ball plays, it’s difficult not get the sense that Springsteen is sometimes trying a little too hard to sound relevant, but the album’s best tracks work against this notion, and in these moments, it feels like you’re right beside Bruce, fighting the good fight.

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Posted on March 8, 2012, in Bruce Springsteen. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Ah yes, the attempt at rap annoys. Why do musicians do this? crossover hopes? but Bruce HAS to know that isn’t gonna happen! not to the Rap genre EVER. so why include something like that? Timely sentiment this record is, which makes me realize something.. Speaking of “advocateurs of peace and justice through music, Where is the solo Bono record, or a new Billy Bragg record? Seems Tottenham woulda’ stirred his throaty metaphorical musio-prose, but it hasn’t. Unless of course I missed it. But it certainly seems that now is the time. any thoughts? Nice review by the way.

    • First off, thank you. And I think that he threw in some of the hip hop elements more because it was something he hadn’t tried, and he wanted to shake his sound up a bit. It’s not even so much that Michelle Moore’s verse on “Rocky Ground” is bad–it just seems out of place, at least to me. But I rather have an artist try something and fail than have someone who doesn’t try at all. But as for crossover appeal, at this point in his career (and with a sting of #1s), I don’t know if Bruce is worrying too much about that.

  2. One of the most commented portions on this album on all the review I’ve read of it is that rap portion. So many motives attached to it. While I didn’t care too much for it, but he probably tried it by way of an experiment – that’s all there’s to it. I agree with you, Chris, that Springsteen’s likely not hanging this out as a hit-hook. That apart, I like this album more than his last two studio efforts although I too believe he tries too hard.

  3. I love Springsteen and I was going to buy this album the other day but decided I’d wait a little longer. I’m really pleased to have come across your blog and to have read this well written critique of the album. It’s nice to have a heads up before I give the album a listen, which I definitely will.

    Looking forward to following your blog. 🙂

    • Thank you! And yes, I try to do at least one review a week (it sort of depends on how busy I am in “real life”), so look out for those. 🙂 Also, just because I am curious, how DID you find my blog?

  4. I apologise for the extremely late response to your comment. I am so pleased that wordpress now has the comment history because there were loads of things I’d missed out on! In response, I have no idea now where I came across you… that really doesn’t help, does it? Sorry! But I’m glad I did! 🙂

  5. Great writing… really enjoyed this… check out my blog… im just starting out reviewing music.. Subscribe if you enjoy it. 🙂 Thanks

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