For­lorn in the USA

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Music - JAR­RAD BE­VAN

WRECK­ING Ball is full of anger and de­spair. On this, his 17th al­bum, Bruce Spring­steen takes a long hard look at the state of mod­ern Amer­ica and does not like what he sees.

The Boss knows where his coun­try should be but feels it has fallen short of the mark.

Wreck­ing Ball ’ s open­ing song, We Take Care of Our Own, leaps out of the speak­ers with pound­ing drums and shriek­ing gui­tars. He asks: ‘‘ Where’s the prom­ise, from sea to shin­ing sea?’’

On Jack of All Trades, he sings from the point of view of a bit­ter blue- col­lar labourer who bounces from job to job and strug­gles to make ends meet. It’s a melan­choly tale, like many on the al­bum, but with an un­der­tone of strength and re­source­ful­ness. It takes a turn in the last act to re­veal the worker’s mur­der­ous fan­tasies about bankers.

Easy Money is an­other Wall Street in­dict­ment, this time with Ir­ish fid­dle melodies and elec­tronic looped drums. But don’t fret, the song is not nearly as mu­si­cally ad­ven­tur­ous as it sounds on pa­per.

There is a sense of hope through­out Death to My Home­town. The Boss uses a fan­tas­tic full brass band to dot his i’s and cross his t’s. He also takes a stab at the ‘‘ rob­ber barons’’ and ‘‘ greedy thieves’’.

Mu­si­cally, this al­bum is not an E Street Band- style record but it’s not wildly ex­per­i­men­tal ei­ther.

Wreck­ing Ball treads the lines be­tween rock, blues, gospel and folk sounds. It sits some­where be­tween his stripped bare, som­bre ’ 82 out­ing Ne­braska and the sta­dium- sized, fist- pump­ing rock of Born in the USA.

There are lots of guests on the al­bum but none more no­table than Rage Against the Ma­chine gui­tarist Tom Morello, who shreds a cou­ple of in­ven­tive gui­tar so­los.

The Boss’s right- hand- man Clarence Cle­mons, who died last June, de­liv­ers a goose­bump- in­duc­ing sax solo on a new ver­sion of an E Street Band con­cert sta­ple, Land of Hope and Dreams.

Rarely does Spring­steen of­fer a ray of light here, un­til Rocky Ground. Un­for­tu­nately it’ll make lis­ten­ers want to draw their cur­tains back into the dark­ness. The song is al­most silly com­pared with the rest of the al­bum; it’s out of place. The odd choice of gospel singer Michelle Moore rap­ping a verse just makes it all the more weird.

Sin­cere and am­bi­tious, the Boss’s themes slide smoothly from Amer­ica’s iffy econ­omy to the destruc­tion of val­ues. There’s doom and gloom on his mind and he has a heavy heart, but at least it’s in the right place.

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