Saturday, May 30, 2009

Rediscovering Bruce Springsteen

There have always been a minimum of two Bruce Springsteens. There is the pop star/party rocker who gave us Cadillac Ranch and the Super Bowl XLIII half time sh0w. Then there is the psyche plumbing songwriter who gave us songs about Charles Starkweather, veterans returning from war and every conceivable type of broken relationship.

Then there is the Bruce Springsteen of clueless political fantasy--the one Geore Will and Michael Deaver wanted to endorse Ronald Reagan for re-election. He is easily the funniest of the Bruces... but ever mind. Let's stick to the music.

Because of this split identity and the way his career has ebbed and flowed it is easy to forget just how great his best music is. No matter how deep I have gotten into heavy, alternative, experimental or obscure music I have never lost my love and respect for Springsteen. I do loose sight of him from time to time and need to be reminded, as I was this morning.

We were doing some Saturday morning house cleaning and I put on my iPod and headphones to shield myself from the toothpaste-commercial-pop one of my daughters was blaring. I happened onto a bunch of Springsteen tracks spanning the 70's through the early 2000's. As each song came up I remembered one more reason he has no peer.

The Rising: Songs that stir hope mean so much more when they come from someone who can so vividly portray dispair.
Born To Run: Not his most brilliant or probing lyrics, but the anthemic performance, arranging and production are flawless. This song really takes the listener for a ride.
Downbound Train: The least successful of the 7 hit singles from Born In The USA, it may be the best song on the record, which is saying something. The way he frames beautifully poetic descriptions of hope for reconciliation and lost love with what amounts to the speaker's resume of dead end jobs is just amazing.
Open All Night: Clever but ultimately vacant song about cars, misspent youth and lust. You could argue that it wasn't worth doing but I defy you to find anybody who does it better.

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