Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Springsteen’


March 5, 2012

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.



March 22, 2010

What have their contemporaries got against U2?

Gene Simmons of Kiss recently challenged U2 and the Rolling Stones.  “I would love to play on the same stage as U2, The Stones and anybody out there who considers themself a world champion,” he said. “You come on up on that stage with us baby. Show me what you got, and then we’ll show you what the big boys do”.

This week it’s Liam Gallagher’s turn.  The Oasis singer says, “I have never seen a U2 fan. I have never seen anyone with a U2 shirt or been around someone’s house that has a f**king U2 record. Where do their fans f**king come from? Where are they?

“I reckon they buy them. With all the money they’ve made, they just bought a load of people and every time they do a gig they get a shovel and pile them into their gigs to make them look good.”

It says something about U2 that Simmons and Gallagher need U2’s name to grab our attention.

Coincidentally it’s actually time to assess the career of U2. This week happens to be the 30th anniversary of the band signing their initial major label recording contract, backstage at a gig, as they announce details of their next album, not more new material as originally promised in the aftermath of ‘No Line Of The Horizon’, but a remix album, a sure sign that U2 are feeling the need to buy time to keep themselves relevant.

U2 have released  an album called ‘Artificial Horizon’, comprised of  three new tracks and 10 previously available remixes on a limited edition triple-LP. Despite its title, only four of the remixed songs are from the recent  ‘No Line on the Horizon’. The rest of the songs stretch from a Grand Jury mix of ‘If God Will Send His Angels’, released in 1997, to Trent Reznor’s take on ‘Vertigo’. Other highlights include remixes by David Holmes, Hot Chip, Justice and a reimagining of  the Beatles ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’.

In today’s music climate U2 might just be the last great (uber-successful) rock band. It’s hard to imagine any of the current crop lasting 30 years in the mainstream with major label support. It’s not the way we’re going. Dubious accolades as they might be we have to acknowledge that  ‘No Line Of The Horizon’  gave U2 a No.1 album in the US and Grammy nominations. When was the last time Kiss or Oasis were in that stratosphere?

U2 didn’t climb on anyone’s shoulders –ala Oasis and the Beatles . They took the time and put in the work to invent themselves from scratch. They created their own sound and their own dialogue with the music of the past and the music of their time. Once they were “there” and recognizable they repeated the process as a live act, setting new standards of scale and creativity for “arena” rock. Then it became tough not to repeat themselves. They’ve been trying really really hard to reinvent the recording process, using the studio, the technology and their team of producers as inspiration and a resource for creativity as they do might a musical instrument.

That’s the music. The other thing  U2 has managed to do is keep to themselves, despite their success and Bono’s visibility as a political activism. They’ve managed to marry and divorce and raise families and suffer personal tragedy away from the public eye. Professionally they’ve manipulated the system, staying in the game through clever marketing and strategic releases, staying relevant at the same time.

 Where would Kiss be without the pyrotechnics and the make-up? What happened when they were “unmasked”. Aren’t Kiss and Oases two of the most over-rated bands you can think of? You can strip U2 back layer after layer and even at their most “naked” you’d find something worthy, original and interesting.

U2 might be an easy target, but hard to bring down.

What I’m listening to:  MGMT (Congratulations), Big Star (No.1),  Bruce Springsteen (Greetings From Asbury Park)


January 14, 2010

The most interesting aspect of “the first Plastic Ono Band gig in 40 years” which Yoko Ono is putting together for the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York on February 6 is the involvement of not just Sean (son of John) Lennon, but also Harper (son of Paul) Simon and  Martha (daughter of Loudon) Wainwright. It’s more evidence of the links that have been forged over the years between the offspring of some of music’s most legendary  names, obviously understanding each other’s struggle with living under the very large shadows of famous parents.

Sean Lennon and Harper Simon are childhood friends. Sean and Martha’s brother Rufus Wainwright also go way back.  Back in 2001 they’d agreed to take part in an all-star tribute to John Lennon in New York. They were due to rehearse when those planes crashed into the twin towers. Rufus and Sean decided to spend that unforgettable day  together anyway at the Lennon’s Dekota apartment. In 2007 they went out on tour together. Sean was also present when for his friend Bijou for the funeral of her father John Phillips of Mamas And Papas fame.  The Wainwrights are also pals of Teddy Thompson, son of Richard. All of them are bravely attempting music careers, despite the comparisons they draw the moment they open their mouths or step on a stage.

Although his music bares some similarity to father John’s it’s more the shadow of mother Yoko that Sean lives with. She seems ever-present in his adult life, always involving him in her schemes and Sean like the dutiful son playing along. She even seems to stand between Sean and the relationship he might have with half-brother Julian. Yoko’s always kept Julian at arm’s length. It wasn’t until John’s infamous “lost weekend” that Julian and his father tried to reconcile, at the instigation of John’s temporary romancer May Pang.

I’ve always wondered how Julian felt or even feels when he hears father John’s ode to Sean, ‘Beautiful Boy’.  Despite some success in the mid-80s to early-90s Julian’s own music career was never what it should have been. It seems like the only reason people wanted to have anything to do with him was that Julian was as close as they could ever get in their own lifetime to John.

Apart from the junior rat pack Yoko Ono has recruited Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore,  Kim Gordon, Jim Keltner, Bette Midler, Mark Ronson and  the Scissor Sisters for her Plastic Ono Band event. More names are expected to be announced.

What I’m listening to:  Hot Chip (One Life Stand);  Bruce Springsteen (Nebraska),  Low Anthem (Oh My God, Charlie Darwin)

ET TU, U2?

January 2, 2010

The end of the year/end of the decade produced lots of lists and stats about the music we’ve heard over the last year or ten.

There was no real consensus about the album of the year. Rolling Stone magazine’s listing of U2’s ‘No Line On The Horizon’ as the top album of the year ahead of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Working On A Dream’ showed us what an ultra-conservative organ the original bastion of alternate lifestyle through music has become.

Rolling Stone’s decision would have given U2 a little comfort after the sales battering the band’s latest album received. Even they have “apologized”, declaring that the album was “too pop” instead of standing by what they decided to release. The good news however is that U2’s tour to accompany that relatively poor-selling album was the biggest grossing American tour of 2009, and even more interesting, the tours of the year which U2 headed, outgrossed the previous year’s list.

Two thoughts emerge from these facts.

 This and other reports from around the music world tells us that no-matter the state of the recording industry, there is a strong even growing trend towards live music. Music consumers are voting with the feet and wallets. It’s such a fact, the record companies who are slowly becoming irrelevant want to get into the act when they sign a new act.

As far as U2 is concerned, there might be another factor at play. Maybe U2 have finally reached the point the Rolling Stones reached some time ago, where, no matter what they commit to record – and for their own sake they need to keep recording – we’re just not interested. What’s the last Rolling Stones song that you can think of? The team that wrote and recorded all those classics CAN’T have dried up completely. There MUST be something in their contemporary output we can savour, but we’re not interested.

The Rolling Stones’ future is strangled by their glorious past. Have U2 reached the same point?


December 13, 2009

Making end of the year/end of the decade lists of the “best” album released continues in traditional fashion – but is it a tradition that, like the year, like the decade, is in its final days? . Aren’t we being told that in the digital age the “album” as we know it is dead?  So presumably in time to come very soon we won’t be making those lists any more or at least those lists in the future will be meaningless.

Flying in the face of the album’s death notice is events like Bruce Springsteen’s decision to perform his ‘Born To Run’ album in its entirety during the year, and another significant trend in music commerce – the rapidly growing popularity of vinyl. Rolling Stone magazine has anointed Green Day as the artist of the decade. Guess what them there? A “concept” album, ‘American Idiot’.

We’re presenting a confusing picture aren’t we?

Fact is, the album isn’t dead, but it’s the music industry itself which has maimed and crippled its future. The rot  started  way back with the introduction of the compact disc, when albums started being trapped in those small plastic cases and for the most part stopped being something you owned and treasured but “just” something that packaged what you listened to. The industry itself has taken the shine off the album. It did nothing to keep encouraging our love affair with albums.  I guess the record companies prefer a future where they offer us (and finance) a succession of tracks rather than a bundle of tracks. Admittedly it is the way we tend to load our iPods.

But the song-at-a-time philosophy flies in the face of everything we want and love in music. Maybe that’s why we’re at the same time starting to go out and see music live again more than we have been, because we actually want an “experience”. A song on its own, love it as we might, just isn’t enough. And when a band like the Decemberists “plan” an experience with a series of songs we remember just why the album is so vital to the enjoyment of music, why the album can’t die and shouldn’t be allowed to.

Bottom line, it’s the music industry itself which is giving the album a bad rap. The vast majority of albums sold are still physical copies and yet we’re told we’re buying a corpse.