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Springsteen’s new “Wrecking Ball” not a wreck at all

originally printed in Insite Magazine


Bruce Springsteen said that his new album “Wrecking Ball” was inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, and songs like “We Take Care of Our Own” and “Death to My Old Town” put a gritty yet eloquent voice and conscience to the movement that it has rarely achieved with all its feverish rallies. Indeed, the new LP released this month, is another routinely compelling sign of Bruce Springsteen still being on the precipice of relevant at the youthful age of 62.

In fact, the albums first single “We Take Care of Our Own,” can be seen as a sequel of sorts to “Born in the U.S.A.,” a song that has been sung with blind patriotic fervor at ball games and political gatherings over the last 30 years by people who really have no idea what the hell the lyrics are actually conveying. George W. would be flinching in his presidential ruin down the unholy halls of callous war-crime-history if he could only understand the content of lines like “From Chicago to New Orleans/ From the muscle to the bone/ From the shotgun shack to the Superdome/ There ain’t no help, the cavalry stayed at home/ There ain’t no one hearing the bugle blown/ We take care of our own.”

The song is a sarcastic and moving expression about what Springsteen thinks America has become and what it really should stand for. He begins it with the lines “I’ve been knocking on the door that holds the throne/ I’ve been looking for the map that leads me home,” and then emphatically asks:

Where’s the eyes, the eyes with the will to see?
Where’s the hearts that run over with mercy?
Where’s the love that has not forsaken me?
Where’s the heart work that’ll set my hand, my soul free?
Where’s the promise from sea to shining sea?

With song titles like “Easy Money,” “Shackled and Drawn,” “Jack of All Trades,” “This Depression,” “Wrecking Ball,” and “Land of Hopes and Dreams,” you might think this was not a fabulously successful multi-millionaire writing and singing but rather a down-on-his-luck bluesman in the racist South in the early 1930’s. But Springsteen has transcended his good fortune by his intelligence and compassion for the common human being’s plight against the all-pervading force of the one-percent.

Speaking of the one-percent, in “Death to My Hometown,” Springsteen scorches them as “robber barons” and “greedy thieves who came round and ate the flesh of everything they found.” In the bridge he declares boldly, “They destroyed our families, factories/And they took our homes/They left our bodies on the plains/ The vultures picked out bones.” At the songs end he declares that their “crimes have gone
unpunished” and that they “walk the streets as free men now.” It’s important to remember that Springsteen grew up in a not-so-well-to-do family in Asbury Park, NJ and that he and the E-Street band were far from an overnight success. They worked the clubs and local venues hard for years, giving their hearts and souls to their growing fan-base, just like the Beatles did on the other side of the Atlantic before their meteoric rise to fame and enduring history.

Speaking again of his early days, the song’s title track, “Wrecking Ball” has the distinct feel and somberness of “Streets of Philadelphia,” a sad but powerful ode to the downtrodden (in that case aids victims and in this case the oppressed). It speaks of Springsteen’s rise out of “steel” and “the swamps of Jersey.” Later he starkly observes, “When all this steel and these stories drift away to rust, and all our youth and beauty has been given to the dust—when the game has been decided.”

To add further acclaim to lyrical triumph, the album also shines musically with an array of gorgeous backing vocals and an extensive arrangement of creative melodious variety, while at the same time keeping to the stripped down quality that is so prevalent in solo Springsteen albums. In short, the album is pure musical and lyrical gold that deserves to go platinum and add to the already 120 million albums that this living legend has already sold worldwide.

The album thankfully ends on a positive and spiritual note without being blind to all the struggles against the oppressors of the flesh. In “We Are Alive,” a song that points to the belief that we are not these tired, battered and eventually dead bodies, Springsteen
declares “We are alive and although our bodies lie alone here in the dark/ Our souls and spirits rise to carry the fire and light the spark/ To fight shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart.”

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