Highlights: We Take Care Of Our Own, Wrecking Ball
In all honesty I shouldn’t be reviewing a new Bruce Springsteen album in the first place. I’m a devout Springsteen agnostic, and, a couple notable exceptions aside (The Wild, The Innocent…; Darkness On The Edge Of Town; an odd song here and there), his working class songwriting has always left me cold. I don’t really actively dislike the man (though stuff like Born In The USA is actually awful – five seconds of the synth riff of “Glory Days” can make your IQ shrink considerably), but there’s something you can’t salvage with passion and dedication. Still, I decided to give Wrecking Ball a try. It’s okay.
The reviews are glowing, of course. In Springsteen’s case they always are. And yet after track eight I felt exhausted (I wanted to say ‘bored’, but let us not be cruel), and titles like “Rocky Ground” and “Land Of Hope And Dreams” still lay ahead of me…
Each song has its direct prototype in Springsteen’s back catalogue. There’s a new “Born In The USA” here. A new “Thunder Road”. A new “Atlantic City”. Not necessarily a bad thing. The problem is that for all its surprising diversity (we even have some Irish overtones) the songwriting lacks a spark (I wouldn’t say subtlety – he never had any). It’s masterfully grinded out – or that’s the feeling I get. Still, Wrecking Ball is packed with that unwavering (if generic) anthemic power that can come off both effective and affecting. Almost against all odds the familiar overblown drama of tracks like the opening “We Take Care Of Our Own” and particularly the title track provides a punch you can’t resist. Plus, the 6-minute “Jack Of All Trades” is a nice’n’bluesy piano ballad – though on occasion Springsteen’s obvious lack of lyrical wit may render it monotonous. The rest is quite good, but desperately unspectacular. Okay, so “Shackled And Drawn” is catchy and dumb – still, I’d rather re-listen to “Hungry Heart”, thank you very much. In its defense, the album’s lone true disaster is the preachy and bloodless “Rocky Road”; as if the annoying backing vocals were not enough, the rapping section is just fucking disgraceful.
It’s quite good at places, and the amount of work and love Bruce puts into his music cannot be denied, but this has long turned into a parody. I can give you the song titles of his next album right now, as well as a critical review of it. But of course: a fan can trick himself into anything. Still, I insist that every critic who gave Wrecking Ball 5/5, 9/10, 10/10, etc. should stop embarrassing himself and take up another job. Because this is getting pathetic. A low six.