Monday, 5 March 2012

Bring On Your Wrecking Ball

On Tuesday, March 6 Bruce Springsteen released his new album entitled "Wrecking Ball". Having already heard the album 2 weeks ago and having noticed that several reviews of it have been published already, not only to official websites but also to fan blogs, I decided to add my own here. Which is something very useful for the readers of this blog because this summer, if all goes well, this blog will feature a lot of Springsteen. A whole lotta Springsteen.
To begin with, let's do a little background reading. The title "Wrecking Ball" is no stranger to fans of Bruce Springsteen. The title song was first performed live in 2009 at Giants Stadium in New York shortly before it was demolished. And it is about this fact the song is talking about, namely the demolition of the stadium.

A few months after that, this live performance from the Giants Stadium, was released as a 10inch vinyl single for Record Store Day 2010

Last November a new tour was announced for the coming summer and a new album coming this March which, then "was not yet quite ready."
Finally in January the new album was announced and the first single was released (unfortunately only as a download) titled "We Take Care Of Our Own"

This is the song that starts the album.

Many will think, perhaps based on the title alone, that this is another track that speaks about the "greatness of America." They are the same ones who misunderstood the meaning of Born In The USA 28 years ago, thinking that it meant "oh how great it is to be born an American". One of them was the then US president, Ronald Reagan, who also wanted to use it for his election campaign. Nobody bothered to read the lyrics. Even I feel a little uncomfortable listening to this track now (he performed it as a request in Udine in 2009) and I prefer the acoustic version, featuring just Bruce and his guitar on "Tracks". So it is on this new track that the declaration "We Take Care Of Our Own", is accompanied by ironic references to Hurricane Katrina, where we all know by now how much the US Government at the time took care of their own people. Therefore it becomes clear from the very first track of the album, what was circulated as a rumour on various websites, a few weeks before its release: that this is the "angriest" album Bruce has ever written. And several of my fellow Greeks told me that although we all know that he wrote it about the situation in America after the economic crisis he could just as well have written it for the situation in Greece.
Which is something that becomes obvious in the next track "Easy Money". Here the hero of the song, being in despair, with no income himself, while the rich see their own increasing while "stealing" from the poor, decides he's going to acquire a little money himself the easy way: By stealing
There's nothing to it mister, you won't hear a sound
When your whole world comes tumbling down
And all them fat cats they just think it's funny
I'm going on the town now looking for easy money
And even if his intentions are in doubt they become clear in the next 2 lines:
I got a Smith & Wesson .38
I got a hellfire burning and I got me a taste

A similar issue is the theme of the next track, Shackled And Drawn, which reminds us that all austerity measures undertaken by the government are not meant to benefit us, the common people, they're meant to save the bankers (Does this remind you of something?)
Gambling man rolls the dice, working man pays the bills
It's still fat and easy up on bankers hill
Up on bankers hill the party's going strong
Down here below we're shackled and drawn

Moving on to Jack Of All Trades, where the hero here seems somewhat resigned from life:
I'll take the work that God provides
I'ma Jack of all trades, honey, we'll be alright
And just as we are about to shout "What is this, you can not take this lying down" he goes on to say that
If I had me a gun, I'd find the bastards and shoot 'em on sight
and we realize now that the Boss is not just angry, he is pissed beyond belief. Let me help you Bruce. Come visit us and as you get out of Athens International Airport, take the metro (blue line) and get off at "Syntagma" station. When you come out, look behind you, see that big building? The people you are who looking for, are inside!
Death To My Hometown follows the same pattern, where he describes how they (you know who they are) brought destruction without a single bomb being thrown:
No shells ripped the evening sky, no cities burning down
No armies stormed the shores for which we'd die
No dictators were crowned
I awoke from a quite night, I never heard a sound
Marauders raided in the dark and brought death to my hometown, boys
Death to my hometown
They destroyed our families' factories and they took our homes
They left our bodies on the plains, the vultures picked our bones
So listen up, my sonny boy, be ready for when they come
For they'll be returning sure as the rising sun
Now get yourself a song to sing and sing it 'til you're done
Yeah, sing it hard and sing it well
Send the robber barons straight to hell
The greedy thieves who came around
And ate the flesh of everything they found
Whose crimes have gone unpunished now
Who walk the streets as free men now

On This Depression things calm down a bit and Bruce tells us how in the midst of this crisis he needs the love of his girl.
Next comes Wrecking Ball, the album's title track which finally gets a studio version. I still prefer the live one, but this applies to all Springsteen songs as far as I'm concerned.
You've Got It, which comes after that is a simple love song:
No one ever found it, ain't no school ever taught it
No one ever made it, ain't no one ever bought it
Baby you've got it, baby you've got it
Come on and give it to me

Plain and simple. Even though some people see sexual innuendos behind these lyrics. Well, you know what they say, each one is entitled to their own opinion...
Next comes Rocky Ground which many believe is the album's best track, probably because musically it's completely different from anything Bruce has done before. It even features a rap (not performed by Bruce though!)
The next track, Land Of Hope And Dreams is not a new one. We've known it for the last 12 years since it was first performed during the Reunion Tour in 1999 and is featured on the Live In New York City album, released in 2001. This too, gets a long awaited studio version after all these years, but it also has a special significance. It is dedicated to Clarence Clemons, the saxophonist of the E Street Band who died last year. Unfortunately the last 2 album Springsteen albums featured a track each dedicated to friends of Bruce that were lost prematurely. In Magic there was Terry's Song (albeit uncredited and was not mentioned anywhere in the CD case) dedicated to Terry Magovern (personal assistance of Bruce since 1987, but they had known each other since 1972) and on Working On A Dream there was The Last Carnival dedicated to Danny Federici, the band's organist. In the case of Clarence Clemons, however, a.k. a. "The Big Man", there's a difference: Bruce did not write a song about him, instead he dedicated an older one to him, where Clarence has the distinction that he gets to perform on the track that is dedicated to his memory (listen to the sax solo).

The album's closing track is We Are Alive, where while walking in a cemetery, our hero hears voices of the ghosts of the strikers of the past come to life each one telling their own story.
A special edition of the album is also released with two extra tracks:
The first is Swallowed Up (In The Belly Of The Whale).
To second one is also an older live favourite, American Land, a live performance of which is featured on "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions" from 2006. Another older track that gets the studio treatment.

Finally, let's wrap the proceedings up by talking a bit about the music:
Springsteen is accused in this album for using Ron Aniello as a producer who introduced "new elements" in his music:
Because I also listen to electronic music (those who do not yet know my musical tastes, all they have to do is browse through this blog), I don't mind the electronic drums, the loops, the samples, the beats etc. There is nothing wrong with experimenting with different music genres. If for example, Bruce did away with all the guitars and all other "traditional" instruments and used only synthesizers then yes, we could accuse him if "turning electro-pop". Only Land Of Hope And Dreams sounds a bit strange to me, perhaps because I'm already familiar with the song, because he has put an electronic beat at the beginning and at the end for only a few seconds which does not seem to fit anywhere. On the contrary, the new elements in his music may be able to attract a younger audience and carry his message to them. And let's remind everyone here that in 1978 the Rolling Stones released a song called "Miss You" and all the "hardcore rockers" at that time (especially here in Greece led by the legendary Pete Constandeas) nearly crucified them because the song was - hark, hark - disco!. 34 years later this track is considered a classic. And we should also note that these "new elements" can mainly be found in the first five tracks of the album. Maybe Bruce still thinks in terms of vinyl. Meaning that the first five tracks would be the A side of the record and the rest would go on the B side. However, Wrecking Ball, in its vinyl version will be released as a double album so this distinction will probably be made between record one and record two.
That's all for now, the album is released on March 6 as we have already said and all we have to do then is wait for the world tour. Meet us out in the street, Bruce!

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