Bruce Springsteen | Wrecking Ball

Columbia (2012)
By ZETH LUNDY  |  March 6, 2012
1.5 1.5 Stars

Springsteen Wrecking

There was a time when Bruce Springsteen didn't need rousing choirs, swelling orchestrations, or repetitive Pogues poses to broadcast anthemic populist subversion. On his 17th studio album, a gregarious racket is always waiting around the corner — a muddled fusion of Irish folk melody, gospel fervor, New Orleans brass, and inoffensive "electronic" supplements. (Honestly, I'll take those offensive Tunnel of Love synths any day.) The uptick of sonic activity on this record, the first to be released following the death of Springsteen's right-hand saxman Clarence Clemons, is perhaps overcompensation for the lack of good songs. As a post-Occupy album, it's less ripped-from-the-headlines and more cribbed-from-older-and-better-ideas. "Banker man grows fat, working man grows thin/It's all happened before, it'll happen again," Springsteen sings in the ponderous "Jack of All Trades," as if he had just spent the last hour listening to "Badlands" for inspiration. Whether "We Take Care of Our Own" should be read ironically hardly seems to matter, since every line is a tossed-off platitude. The church-pop atrocity "Rocky Ground" is even worse. And though Bruce has never been Cole Porter in the melody department, 21st-century Boss is exceptionally tuneless. On the other hand: "You've Got It" is a rare diamond in the rough, a witty ode to the ineffable that sounds like a Tunnel of Love outtake set to the melody of "Walkin' to New Orleans." How it worked its way into this mess is anyone's guess. Perhaps Springsteen has finally become the thing that many have accused him of being, though few of us have wanted to admit it: a cliché rider rather than a cliché overrider. Or just another once-relevant icon telling us what he thinks we want to hear.
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  Topics: CD Reviews , Music, New Orleans, Columbia,  More more >
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