Album Review: Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball

Bruce Springsteen is angry – it’s quite easy to tell this from the moment that the pumping drum beats and siren-like guitars signal the opening to the first track (‘We Take Care of our Own’) on his new album. What follows is eleven tracks of nigh on unrelenting fury, the sort of anger embraced by the worldwide occupy movement over the last year. 

This is no bad thing however: the Boss (as his die hard fans call him) is most famous for his 1984 hit ‘Born in the USA’, which is four and a half minutes of pure rage against the Vietnamese war. Similarly, if we take Springsteen’s latest album (2009’s ‘Working on a Dream); it all seemed very optimistic about Obama and the potential of a new America, and ultimately it all came across as a bit too nicey nice and hopeful. Put simply: an angry boss is an artistically brilliant boss.

‘We Take Care of our Own’ flows into the similarly cynical ‘Easy Money’. This is followed by ‘Shackled and Drawn’, which sounds like (American folk-singer & civil rights protester) Pete Seeger in his prime; the track in fact sounds like one of Seeger’s own off Springsteen’s 2006 covers album: ‘The Seeger Sessions’. After this, there is the superb ballad ‘Jack of all Trades’, then the similarly furious ‘Death to my Hometown’ and ‘This Depression’ keeping Springsteen’s frustration on the boil. These are followed by the title track: ‘Wrecking Ball’; which is a slice of pure E Street band – Springsteen may be the title name, but the backing from his ever present E Street band (including the band’s tragically deceased saxophonist Clarence Clemons) makes this song one of the strongest of this album, and Springsteen’s career.

The album then dips slightly with the slightly ill-judged ‘You’ve Got it’ and ‘Rocky Ground’, but the boss is very quickly back up to speed for the uplifting (by the standards of this album) ‘Land of Hope and Dreams’ and ‘We are alive’. ‘Land of Hope and Dreams’ talks of a train that embraces all those that find themselves lost; and ‘We are alive’ is a tribute to those who have lost their lives for a noble cause. These final two songs suggest that Springsteen hasn’t given up hope entirely: where there’s a will for good, there’s a way seems to be Springsteen’s message.

 An obvious question that arises from this album is how can millionaire Bruce Springsteen sing about the woes of the common man? The simple fact is that these songs are not autobiographical – Bruce Springsteen has always sung through characters that he can empathise with, create a narrative for and speak for. These are not empty words from Springsteen, he is a man who has campaigned with Obama and does extensive charity work, as ‘Land of Hope and Dreams’ suggests, all are welcome on Springsteen’s train of lost souls.

Basically, Bruce Springsteen is irate, because the hope which he (on ‘Working on a Dream’) and America invested in Obama seems to have been corrupted by the elite and, despite the optimism of Obama, the poor are still being crushed. Bruce Springsteen is going through an unbelievable purple patch of albums and this album of anger can only help. We must hope this run will hopefully not be dented by the passing of band members Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons. ‘Wrecking Ball’ sounds most like either 1978’s ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’, which was part of Springsteen’s last run of albums as successful as these, or just a greatest hits album of Springsteen’s finest sounds. Financial inequality is no good thing, but if it leads Bruce Springsteen to such frustration to continue crafting his best music in thirty years, then long may it continue.

 Liam Coleman


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