Saturday, March 28, 2009

Bruce: A Breakup

Over the years you stop listening to certain artists and groups. The reasons can be many. The band broke up and is doing nothing new. The personnel changed and the songs are not quite the same. The artist went through rehab and is no longer edgy.

With Bruce Springsteen, it's finally happened. After listening to Working on a Dream, I can honestly say I'm no longer interested in listening to what he has to say. I'm not even sure he still has a record left in him. There's not going to be a Flaming Pie with the Boss. Heck, McCartney may even have one more after that one left in him.

It took me awhile to start listening to his music. It was not until Born in the U.S.A. and its polished Bob Clearmountain mix Courtney Cox in the video that I went back and appreciated his earlier work. For the record, Darkness on the Edge of Town is the one I keep going back to. I saw that mega tour in Buffalo late in '85 and it was quite the event. The Wave during Clarence's sax solo in Jungleland, with Bruce at the core of it was spectacular populist art.

The follow up was him trying to avoid the tabloids with his marriage to Juliette Phillips. Then Tunnel of Love and it's revelation that married life can be a downer. I am aware artists change. They grow up. They have kids - and when Bruce wrote about that with the song Living Proof, I was touched.

But the whole releasing two cds on one day thing with Lucky Town and Human Touch. Come on, that's just ego and it screams for the need of an editor.

I saw him again, in late 1999 here in Columbus. Clarence was taken out as foil. Patti was absent that night but she replaced him. As talented as a musician as she is, listen to 23rd Street Lullaby it's good - she could never inject herself into the E-Street Scene, and the performance was lessened.

Then 9/11 came and Bruce showed up for the benefit show a week later doing a brilliant My City of Ruins, and the "Rise Up" chorus send chills up my back. In the aftermath, he was asked to write a record about the tragedy, and The Rising had some good songs, but writing to spec was never his forte.

Lately, he was working with Brendan O'Brien and had a couple of promising songs on the Magic record so I was pleased to find out that Working on a Dream was to come out.

And there's this one song on it, the lyrics are horrible. It has a string arrangement that is disgusting. Queen of the Supermarket may be one of the worst songs released by a mainstream artist. Where were the editors? Was there anyone in the studio with the 'nads to say, "Um, Bruce, you may want to put this one back."

The man is pushing 60 and to release lyrics such as "The way she moves behind the counter/Beneath her white apron her secret remains hers/As she bags the groceries her eyes so bored/And sure she's unobserved" is really execrable. I mean, the Northern Pikes got away with Jackie T. looking cute in her drug store suit because they were in their twenties, and Canadian.

But this ode to a cashier makes My Morning Jacket's "Librarian" seem like songwriting genius. The rest of the record is dragged down by this song. There's little inspiration here. The songs are mid tempo and even the experimentation is half-hearted.

So Bruce, while I respect you and wish you well. Anything you produce from here on out, probably won't be heard by my ears. I'll still groove to Candy's Room. Anytime.


last year's girl said...

Have to say I haven't felt the desire to listen to Working on a Dream - apart from "The Wrestler" - since that first time. But I'm still incredibly excited to finally see Springsteen live in the summer.

Anonymous said...

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The Guy You Thought Was Rude said...

He still puts on a good show Lis, so you'll have a great time.