A &E

Springsteen Takes his Wrecking Ball to Wall Street

Since 2009’s Working on a Dream, a lot has changed for Bruce Springsteen and the country he commented on in all his music since the late 1970’s.

Since his last album his band, The E Street Band, has faced the debilitating loss of the great saxophonist Clarence Clemons. Clarence was a strong presence on and off the stage, he anchored the backup vocals of the whole band while entrenching them as one of the greatest ensembles of all time with his epic solo on Jungleland from the Born to Run album. He was a force in many areas of music and culture, even appearing in the movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure ,as well as his own documentary on finding himself in Asia and the Lady Gaga song The Edge of Glory.Many of Springsteen’s diehard fans worried about how the boss would replace “The Big Man,” especially after already losing organist Danny Federici in 2008. His solution was a complex one, to have an entire horn section featuring Jake Clemons, Clarence’s nephew, and legendary south Jersey saxophonist Eddie Manion with trumpeter Curt Ramm from the previous tour, as well as other various musicians. He sets off on another World Tour starting late in March, with a stop at the Tampa Times Forum on March 23, in support of his new album Wrecking Ball (released on March 6).

He opens the album with its first single “We Take Care of Our Own,” which is one of his most politically charged songs to date, offering a rally cry to all of the countries working class. Though on the surface many have assumed this about everyone being taken care of by their neighbor but the lyrics tell another story, this song depicts the failures of the American government to live up to their promises and to do what is best for society as a whole. Springsteen depicts a government that has ignored the problems the country has faced including hurricane Katrina, “From the shotgun shack to the Super Dome/There ain’t no help/the cavalry stayed home/There ain’t no one hearing the bugle blowin.’” The song itself has roots in folk and sounds as though it would fit greatly on his 1982 album Nebraska.

The next track is “Easy Money,” a country song backed by violins and drum machine, an obscure blend that combines to very opposite genres. This innovative song also features a Gospel choir throughout singing behind Springsteen searching for ways to get money fast, even alluding to prostitution. Overall this is one of the most polarizing tracks on the album as it combines two genres Springsteen is not a part of but is a surprise on the record as on the strongest musically. The third song has similarities to its predecessor but includes a more prominent string section, but again drum loops are present. “Shackled and Drawn” has roots in Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions effort. “Shackled and Drawn” has pieces of both folk and country but a driving beat led by the drum loops and Springsteen’s howling vocals and features folk singer Willie Nile on vocals as a Baptist preacher as it fades away.
Fourth on the album is “Jack of All Trades,” a slow piano backed track on the plight of blue collar worker and the neglect of the middle class, and the increasing wealth of the American baker. He focuses on how the middle class works to build this country up only to be in the same place as always while the people on Wall Street get richer. He shows the ability of the middle class to do whatever it takes to survive and do anything to keep their head afloat. The song features a haunting trumpet solo by Curt Ramm coupled with a Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine) guitar solo.

Next is the track “Death to My Hometown,” which again focuses on the government and Wall Street taking care of themselves and neglecting the American small town. He rages on the destroying of the factory and the housing crisis that have ravished the small towns across the country. He declares war on the “robber barons” that have destroyed his hometown. The song is an Irish rock song featuring a large string section and at one point a shotgun blast (intended for Wall Street). The song features former part time Pearl Jam drummer Matt Chamberlain, who left the band right before their explosion in pop culture.

The sixth song on Wrecking Ball is “This Depression.”This is easily the slowest and saddest song on the album. Springsteen depicts his extreme sadness at the loss of the one he loves, all emphasized by another fantastic solo by Tom Morello on guitar. He wallows in the loss of his love and begs her to come end the depression he has faced due to the hard economic times. Next is the title track of the album “Wrecking Ball,” which debuted on his last tour in Giants Stadium and the Spectrum in Philadelphia as an ode to the things of the past that brought the country to where it is today. The new studio version is slower at the beginning but offers the same punch as it did in front of 85,000 people. Fresh and new with looped claps sampled as if on a hip-hop record the title track culminates the anger and frustration the working class has endured in the current recession and demands that they come at them with their best because, as Springsteen exemplifies throughout the record, they can take it.

While most of the tracks on the album are concept pieces, each one is uniquely different. The special edition album also includes two bonus tracks. The first is the brooding and slow “Swallowed Up (In the Belly of the Whale).”This song features vocals by Springsteen that are different than any of his other songs, he almost whispers at times while singing of religion. The second bonus track is the popular concert song “American Land,”which is an Irish rock song about immigrants coming to the United States featuring the E Street Band.

Overall this is Springsteen’s most innovative and risky record, he dabbles in numerous genres and pushes the limit on many popular culture topics without fear. He urges for a change on Wall Street and higher value of the backbone of the country, the middle class. Though not entirely an E Street Band album this is easily one of his best and definitely his best of the 2000’s. He uses an array of musicians to portray exactly the message the country needs, it could be a hell of a lot worse.

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