To Bruce Springsteen’s great credit his ‘Wrecking Ball’ is a worthwhile, if contradictory album. I want the people I listen to to move on so I’m not critical of the fact that the storytelling Springsteen we first knew is not in evidence, not even the nostalgic Springsteen. Part of the album is the destruction (thanks to the wrecking ball) of where those ‘Glory Days’ of old took place. Instead of nostalgia there’s resignation and sadness.

Another (large) part of this album is Bruce addressing himself to the “financial crisis” America. He has the bankers and moneymen in his sights – literally. In the song ‘Jack Of All Trades’  he promises ‘we’ll be alright’ by doing what you can, by being a jack of all trades, but then in that same song he finds himself wishing for a gun so he can kill them all. I can hear those Tea Party rednecks waiting for and cheering that part of those song. Is this the way Bruce planned it?

Some of this album is going to be misunderstood, like the song ‘Born In The USA’ was misunderstood and misinterpreted. Maybe I’m the one who has misunderstood. You’ve probably heard the album’s opening song, ‘We Take Care Of Our Own’. While this flag is flying we’ll take care of our own. Bugger the rest?

Bruce is the modern Woody Guthrie or Pete Seeger. We’ve known that, said that, admired that. He allows himself to be blown by the wind of history. He tried in the aftermath of 9/11 with ‘The Rising’, but it was too soon, too unfathomable  to articulate properly. He does much better addressing the latest calamity America finds itself in. Through imagery rather than specifics he tries to find hope but can’t quite bring himself to promise it. The troubles will come again.

The last two tracks take us to that thought, where are we headed?  ‘Land Of Hope And Dreams’ puts us on the train scheduled by the Impressions’ ‘People Get Ready’, and then comes the final standout track where Bruce Springsteen takes on the Dylan mantle. ‘We Are Alive’ addresses itself to the injustices of the past. They are not forgotten. ‘We are alive’ the wronged assure us.  They’re with us. But they’re dead. 

Despite the lyrical contradiction ‘Wrecking Ball’ gives voice to an era of history we’ve all shared. Music is great when id does that.


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