January 19, 2012

A look at Bruce Springsteen's latest single.


This is the first single off Bruce Springsteen's soon-to-come album, which is unfortunately titled Wrecking Ball. Yes, after that crappy song he used to close down the Meadowlands last year. The one everyone in attendance had to pretend they liked. Not a good start.

It's also not great when the notable musicians your new producer has previously worked with are your wife and Sixpence None the Richer. It's nice to see Bruce mixing it up a little -- Working on a Dream absolutely should've been the end of Brendan O'Brien -- but nothing I'm hearing about this new album inspires much confidence. Especially without the reassuring presence of the Big Man.

They say Wrecking Ball is to be Bruce's "angriest" work to date, but that's not evident on "We Take Care of Our Own." Instead it's another of Springsteen's "listen closer, gang" tunes, where he buries the meaning behind a chant-worthy chorus and arena-rousing beat. The problem is that when he's done this before, in songs like "Born in the U.S.A.," they were fiendishly catchy and fiendishly clever. The lyrics had something to say. This one sounds like a John Mellencamp outtake that should be playing over a truck commercial.

Other than that, it's standard latter-day Springsteen. It'll go over well in packed stadiums -- if only because it's the single and most people will ignore the rest of the album -- but when it comes to crowd-pleasing post-reunion anthems, "We Take Care of Our Own" comes nowhere near "Radio Nowhere," "Livin' in the Future," "My Lucky Day" and pretty much everything rousing on The Rising. If this is the best he's got, most serious fans are gonna be left wanting.

I do not have high hopes for Wrecking Ball, although song titles like "The Depression," "Shackled and Down" and "Death to My Hometown" sound just desperate enough to get everyone hoping for another Darkness on the Edge of Town. But this is 62-year-old billionaire Bruce, not the angry, weary post-litigation Springsteen of 1978. We know "Wrecking Ball" and we've heard "We Take Care of Our Own" and I doubt anyone's pants have been blown off by either.

Best case scenario, we get another Working on a Dream: Three great songs, a few decent ones and a lot of tacked-on crap. At the end of the day, adding a few extra hits to my Bruce playlist and getting another tour should be all that matters. But I really enjoyed Magic and thought Springsteen still had more to say. Another stinker here would be proof that all we've got left is nostalgia.

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