Economic Inequality Fuels Springsteen's Wrecking Ball
- Monday, March 12, 2012
Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Title: Wrecking Ball
With a catalog that includes so many great albums, from Born to Run and Born in the U.S.A. to last decade's The Rising and Magic, Bruce Springsteen gets more flack than most artists when his newest release doesn't have the immediate ring of a classic. So what if Wrecking Ball swings in without a runaway anthem? The good news is it defines our times well, and The Boss puts more care into the writing than he did on 2009's half-baked predecessor, Working on a Dream.
Wrecking Ball is largely a commentary on what has fueled the Occupy Wall Street movement—corporate greed, economic inequality, the richer getting richer and the poor getting poorer. "The road of good intentions has gone dry as a bone," he laments on a nevertheless patriotic "We Take Care of Our Own" as E Street Band-like keys brighten the dark sentiment.
"Easy Money" has the easy charm of the folk songs Bruce covered on We Shall Overcome despite being about "when your whole world comes tumbling down." Similarly, the romping "Shackled and Drawn," crossing Tom Waits vocalizations with a workingman's fighting spirit, knows too well "it's still fat and easy up on banker's hill."
The blue collar ethos continues on standout ballad "Jack of All Trades," shaped sort of like R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" with an epic solo from Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine). Violin, brass, and pennywhistle course through "Death to My Hometown" and the title track giving them the same stomp and jig that livened up Springsteen's Live in Dublin record.
"Hold tight to your anger and don't fall to your fears," he sings on the latter, encapsulating the socio-political dissonance many Americans feel today.
What's pleasantly surprising is where Wrecking Ball finds hope. "It feels like the world's gonna change, and we'll start caring for each other like Jesus said that we might," sings the "Jack of All Trades." And the urban gospel flavored "Rocky Ground" takes heart knowing that "Jesus said the money changers in this temple will not stand."
So, optimism reigns especially on closing tracks "Land of Hope and Dreams" (a new recording of a longtime live favorite, featuring the last saxophone solo by the late Clarence Clemons) and the spiritually compelling "We Are Alive" ("though our bodies die our spirits rise"). The bigger demolition here may be of those injustices that no one sings about better than Bruce Springsteen.
*This Review First Published 3/12/2012
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