Slice of Life: Ridin’ with the ‘Wrecking Ball’

My youngest son spent the weekend with my father, who lives about 90 minutes away. He regularly takes one of the three boys for an overnight visit, coming to get them from our house and then I go pick them up. Before I jumped in the car, I downloaded the new Bruce Springsteen album to my iPod. I figured this was the perfect time to give it a listen, in its entirety.

I hit the highway and hit the volume, and soon, I was cruising south down Interstate 91.

I’m a fan of Springsteen, although not one of those rabid ones who thinks he some sort of rock god. I often have mixed emotions on his albums. Most have one or two great tracks stuffed in with some fluff tracks. The one album of later Bruce that I hold in high regard is The Rising, which he wrote in the aftermath of 9/11 and still chokes me up sometimes when I hear some of the tracks. His ability there to bring the listener into the lives of characters experiencing profound loss and sadness … and hope, even, is something often missing in modern songwriters.

Sprinsteen’s latest album, Wrecking Ball, is another mixed affair. With Bruce returning to his tried and true themes of economic disparity and political corruption and the state of the American Dream (and using more studio work to layer his sound, echoing the Born to Run days), the album skewers the fat cats on Wall Street and mourns the loss of opportunity for the blue collar folks in our country. There’s a real Celtic edge to this album, too, which no doubt reflects some of the work he has done in recent years around the songs of Pete Seeger and that live disc recorded over in Ireland.

And Woody Guthrie’s words and voice seeps through the album, too. As does the saxophone of the late Clarence Clemons, whose sax part was engineered into the song,  Land of Hope and Dreams, after he had passed away from complications from his stroke. (Bruce gives an emotional interview about Clemons in the most recent Rolling Stone magazine, too. It’s touching the relationship and friendship that Bruce and Clarence had developed over the decades together.)

I didn’t skip any of the songs on the first listen, but on round two, I found myself centering on just four or five songs. While the song We Take Care of our Own is getting the spotlight because its a message that the song hammers into your head, I think the title track — Wrecking Ball — is the much better song. There’s a moment in the song where the band pulls back, and Bruce’s words come to the forefront. It’s a reminder of the power of a few lines, and the poetry of songwriting.

Now when all this steel and these stories, they drift away to rust
And all our youth and beauty, it’s been given to the dust
And your game has been decided, and you’re burning the down the clock
And all our little victories and glories, have turned into parking lots
When your best hopes and desires, are scattered to the wind
And hard times come, hard times go ….
Yeah, just to come again

By the time I got to my father’s house, I was immersed in Springsteen’s music and words. Sometimes being alone with music is the best way to spend your time alone.

Peace (with Bruce),
Kevin

 

6 Comments
  1. I have a brother who loves Bruce and had his latest kicked up to high volume on Saturday, as I arrived at house. He was getting ready for Bruce’s new tour. He will see him 3 times in a few days.
    I like him…some songs I love…but I can’t imagine 3 concerts in 4 days.
    But I respect his love. I have it for Apple.
    I think I will download this Album.
    Bonnie
    Thanks for the review.

  2. I am married to one of those people who find Bruce a rock god. I’ve been to several Bruce concerts with him, and am always amazed at how many people in the arena were just like him.
    Don’t get me wrong; I also really like some of Springsteen’s stuff. I sing out loud with the songs I really enjoy; several are on my iPod.
    I got to see him jam with Jimmy Fallon and his show band recently and it was so fun. He is truly a talented storyteller.
    Glad you got time to listen to the new album.

  3. Kevin thanks for the review. I also have been listening to Wrecking Ball and had the feeling that Bruce is really pissed off. He is a wealthy musician and could get by with standard rock-and-roll song about lost love. Instead Bruce pays homage to Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger in this album. I have never seen Bruce in concert but I do have a DVD of Bruce Springsteen in Dublin to watch when ever I need to get out of a funk.

  4. Kevin,
    Great post. I have to say I grew up a Springsteen fan. Personally, I love his older music but haven’t enjoyed his newer music as much. There have always been a few songs I am fond of, but it has been a long time since I have wanted to listen to an album from beginning to end. However, your post makes me want to give this new album a little attention. The times are certainly right for Springsteen’s message.

    I enjoyed the way you wove the story of picking up your son into the review of this new music. It helped to pull me into the piece. The deeper significance of your message that music can speak to important themes and make us stop and think a little is tucked nicely inside.

    Your piece is a great reminder to me of the variety of types of writing we can do. I am adding it to my collection of mentor slices.

    Cathy

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