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Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball (Cover Artwork)

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen: Wrecking BallWrecking Ball (2012)
Columbia

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:


Contributed by: JeloneJelone
(others by this writer | submit your own)

For Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball is a surprisingly experimental record. Considering his last album, 2009's Working on a Dream, was a disappointing, rushed and, ultimately, safe mess, this is a good thing. Wrecking Ball finds the Boss creatively reinvigorated, and it's somehow his angriest, most .
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For Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball is a surprisingly experimental record. Considering his last album, 2009's Working on a Dream, was a disappointing, rushed and, ultimately, safe mess, this is a good thing. Wrecking Ball finds the Boss creatively reinvigorated, and it's somehow his angriest, most soulful and all around best record since 2002's The Rising.

In fact, like Rising, Wrecking Ball finds Springsteen trying to heal America's psyche. Where The Rising tackled the 9/11 attacks, Wrecking Ball takes on the financial crisis, and by association, the changing of the times. In his catalogue overall, this isn't necessarily a new thing. Springsteen has been chronicling small towns crumbling for decades; single "We Take Care of Our Own" is, in a way, an update of "Born in the U.S.A.," in that it's about the failure of the American dream, even though the chorus is so catchy that a lot of people are probably going to misread it as being a total pro-America anthem. But Springsteen's patriotism has always been a complicated thing, and it is not beholden to governments.

Wrecking Ball also has a lot of The Rising's musicality in its DNA. Both records are defined by Soozie Tyrell's violin, although here she adds more Irish folk flavor, a la Springsteen's We Shall Overcome covers album. But there's also a lot of soul, and songs like "Shackled and Drawn" and "Rocky Ground" should fit perfectly alongside "The Rising" and "Mary's Place" live.

The songs that will get the most attention, though, are the angry ones. "We Take Care of Our Own" is a catchy little call to arms. "Death to My Hometown" integrates a dash of Pogues. "Jack of All Trades," which features Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello*, has been getting a lot of press for the lines "If I had me a gun / I'd find the bastards and shoot 'em on sight," but it's mostly just about good ol' hard work in the land of opportunity.

But when considered overall, Wrecking Ball is more of a folk/soul record, and a celebratory one at that. The title track has been in the band's live set for a few years now, and while the recorded version loses some of its bite, it's still a rip roaring tribute to old haunts (Giants Stadium, specifically). It also features one of two performances from deceased member Clarence Clemons. Clemons' saxophone defined some of the E Street Band's best moments. While Wrecking Ball is being touted as a solo record for Springsteen, it's hard not to look at all of the brass and woodwind players listed in the liner notes and think, "Damn, it took a lot of people to replace the Big Man."

There are a handful of experiments for Springsteen scattered around, but they're all relative to him. The samples and loops he plays with are minimal in scope and tastefully applied. Outside of atmospheric stuff, the most noticeable addition would be electronic beats that keep tempo while we wait for Springsteen, Matt Chamberlain and Max Weinberg to come back in on drums. The real shocker is the rap break by Michelle Moore on "Rocky Ground," if only because A) Springsteen wrote a freaking rap song and B) it's actually kind of good. It's very much in that Roots vein of jammy/rocky/funky/soulful hip-hop. It's not the most mind-blowing thing ever, but it's shockingly not embarrassing.

"Not embarrassing" is kind of a backhanded way of describing Wrecking Ball as good, I admit, but this record goes pretty far outside of Springsteen's comfort zone despite sticking to the blue collar playbook. While producer Ron Aniello shaves a little too much grit off of the tracks (Anyone who caught the E Street Band's sets on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon last week knows these songs sound great loud and raw), he's still preferable to the gloss Brendan O'Brien heaped on Magic and Working on a Dream. The only time his production gets in the way is on previously released live material. While "Wrecking Ball" and bonus track "American Land" sound better on other releases, I still get chills when Clemons fires off two humungous sax solos on "Land of Hope and Dreams." Seventeen albums into his career, Springsteen continues to prove why he's the Boss.

* How awesome would it be if Morello joined the E Street Band? Did you see him Fallon?!

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
telegraphrocks (March 10, 2012)

I didn't check out his last one, but I got this today. Pretty damn good. The first five songs and the title track, especially.

And to the troll bitching that this is reviewed here, Bruce is a huge inspiration to most bands today. You don't have to like him, but show some respect.

MN_DrNick (March 9, 2012)

angryderek has inspired me to do a review on Toad The Wet Sprocket.

jizzo (March 9, 2012)

Great review whoever wrote it, very thought out and constructed, not like alot of the reviews on this site. Not saying most are bad but this is one of the best I've read on here in a very long time. Good job.

schaumpton (March 9, 2012)

Picked up The River on vinyl yesterday for $12. Never realized how old Hungry Heart is. Album is good, nonetheless, but no River.

And to the guy asking for 7 Mary Three reviews.... I'm with you, buddy! Bring on some good shit!!!

eatdogs (March 9, 2012)

oh, btw, awesome review jelone. really well written.

eatdogs (March 9, 2012)

having the parents that i do, i grew up listening to everything by the boss. up until he made human touch. the ghost of tom joad was pretty awesome though.

ugh, i don't know. it's hard for me to pick my favorite boss album. i guess it's born in the usa because of nostalgia, but i did hear a lot of born to run and tunnel of love, so it sort of a mix between the three. darkness on the edge of town, the river and greetings from asbury park are just as fantastic though. you can't touch his first eight or nine records.

eatbicycles (March 9, 2012)

Working on a Dream was sonically his most wall-of-sound lush well-produced album since Born to Run, probably, but the songs sucked. Except for "Life Itself" and "What Love Can Do."

This album is great all the way through -- the hip-hop of Rocky Ground, as said, definitely would've bombed in less capable hands. I think the studio version of Wrecking Ball is better, that not-quite-jangle-guitar all the way through kicks tuccus. Dude knows how to respond to a crisis.

angryderek (March 9, 2012)

this website is continuing to suck dicks......what's next? review the new Seven Mary Three album??? Creed's back together, review that!! assholes

scorpiondeathlock (March 9, 2012)

really hope it's better than working on a dream. that was so clearly just a thrown together cash-in on his super bowl performance. i maintain though that The Wrestler is the best song he's written in a decade

flowerfeeder (March 9, 2012)

It's no Darkness on the Edge of Town or Nebraska, but it is a great record. I love it. Working on a Dream was not my cup of tea and one of the only albums in his catalog that I don't celebrate. Wrecking Ball is a return to form.

If you haven't seen the performance of Death to My Hometown on the Jimmy Fallon show, do so now. Badass.

MN_DrNick (March 9, 2012)

I really enjoyed Working On A Dream. Not sure how somebody couldn't.

danperrone (March 9, 2012)

good album, not great. "jack of all trades" and "this depression" are pretty bad songs, but the rest is solid. i am really enjoying "rocky ground"...the hip-hop bit is done very tastefully.

Hasheesh (March 9, 2012)

Good review. I love that this album turned out more as a Irish folk/gospel album than a rock album, and I totally understand why it was recorded as a Springsteen solo album than as an E Street album. I love the consistent clashing of the religious overtones and the Occupy overtones, and I think that they help to create lyrics that work on numerous levels and have that personal vs. political clash that Springsteen has been playing with since Devils and Dust. I hear a lot of elements of The Rising and Devils and Dust in this album (and of course Seeger Sessions), and while I felt The Rising could have benefited from cutting a few clunkers, I think Wrecking Ball works much better. As you mentioned as well, "Rocky Ground" is a track that, on paper, shouldn't have worked at all, but as it stands it might be my favorite track on here. "Rocky Ground'/"Land of Hope and Dreams"/"We Are Alive" is such a fantastic 1-2-3 at the end and really brings you up from the angrier first half of the album. I haven't stopped spinning this for the last couple days (except to listen to The Promise!).

Rodeo (March 9, 2012)

Amazing record.

eazyd3 (March 9, 2012)

is this that redneck who dance in front of american flag trying to sound like gaslight anthem?

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