Forlorn in the USA
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.