‘The Boss’ is back. The voice of generations, an artist for decades and one of the greatest American singer/songwriters of the last century – if not one of the best in the world ever – returns with a huge new album to wake up and charge a so-far quiet start to 2012 (bar an almost Springsteen, tribute-esque titled Born To Die from the incredible Lana Del Rey). With one swing of the Wrecking Ball the spokesman for freedom over hard times in America gives us his seventeenth classic.
And the first swing is the hardest and deepest as We Take Care Of Our Own shows the man previously Working On A Dream is pulling up his boot-cut jeans and putting his nation on his strong, tried and tested shoulders. As Springsteen sings “I’ve been knockin’ on the door that holds the throne/I’ve been lookin’ for the map that leads me home/I’ve been stumblin’ on good hearts turned to stone/The road of good intentions has gone dry as bone” a glimmer of hope returns to the people whose back this man has had through decades.
Wrecking Ball also takes another swing at the self-titled track that was previously an alive concert recording written in tribute for the closing of the stadium of the NFL team, the New York Giants, in 2009. Now after that stadium was demolished, Bruce breaks new ground and rebuilds a slower number that’s burning hot – fitting since the Giants have just won the Superbowl. Still this is the Boss’ crowning moment.
Springsteen and his E Street band also go further down the road on a soulful, new version of Seeger Sessions‘ live favourite American Land, which, along with the bonus Swallowed Up (In the Belly of the Whale), closes up and finishes off this competition-demolishing work perfectly. Land of Hope and Dreams is also brought alive in the studio by even more heart and soul and what may be late, legendary saxophonist Clarence Clemons’ last blow and bow show of one of the Boss and ‘Big Man’s’ greatest collaborations.
They say struggle builds character and on this album the man of the people with all his charisma and confidence builds a solid ground of resilience and drive built on hard times. Tracks like Easy Money, Shackled and Drawn and Jack Of All Trades couldn’t highlight current troubles any more illuminating. With these pressure points in troubled times, Bruce Springsteen touches raw nerves but also taps into reservoirs of hope that he pours in with all his undying energy and passion.
Death to My Hometown and This Depression go deeper into the abyss of lost promises and quests for answers in these modern times. Still, even though these angst-filled tracks show our man and our world at its angriest yet, just like the war-torn Devils & Dust or the politically poignant Born In The USA, this album is a necessary statement of alarm clock music. Not only does Springsteen wake us up, he also shows he’s behind us in unconditional support. Even at 62, he’s not backing down and is screaming and shouting for those who need to be heard.
We Are Alive and You’ve Got It further that notion, but it’s the second-single Rocky Road that is truly sensational and unlike anything the great man and his band have done before. This Wrecking Ball swings in all directions from electric avenues to the folk traditions of Ireland, but with raps from the truly talented Michelle Moore. This song traverses hip hop all whilst staying religious with a classic choir backing.
It’s another example – like this album – of just how creatively Bruce Springsteen and The E Street band push the envelope as they continue to force the issue that needs to be truly addressed by those in power: the issue of the economy and the welfare of the hardest workers. The fat cats may be rich, but this man in leather boots carries more weight and has planted his feet firmly in current culture’s consciousness. With this hard-hitting strike, when we need him most, Bruce doesn’t drop the ball. TIM DAVID HARVEY.