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You are here: Arts » Music » Old Dogs, New Tricks: Bruce Springsteen - ´Wrecking Ball´

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Old Dogs, New Tricks: Bruce Springsteen - ´Wrecking Ball´

Published 17th May 2012

Considering the theme of this series, eventually touching upon Bruce Springsteen was somewhat unavoidable. Having already released five studio albums over the past decade, this year the 70s veteran has added yet another LP to his vast discography. As is immediately apparent from the album's title, Springsteen seeks to prove with Wrecking Ball (2012) that he still has a defiant message to convey.

            In certain respects, the album serves as a reminder of Springsteen's classic years. Driving anthems like the title song and 'We Take Care of Our Own', combining eclectic instrumentation with blue collar themes, could fit quite comfortably in spirit alongside Born to Run (1975). Yet in spite of turning 62 last year, Springsteen displays a commendable willingness to embrace modern conventions. For example, the gospel-infused 'Rocky Ground' features a rap solo from backing vocalist Michelle Moore.

            Although generally more in line with such enduring yet more commercially accessible albums of his as Born in the USA (1984), Springsteen remains mindful to retain the sonic atmosphere of heartland America that made him an icon. This is most striking from the simple touches of folk music on even the grandest tracks, such as the prevalent violins on 'Easy Money'. Additionally, pieces like 'We Are Alive' provide touching lyrical tributes to working class survival in the face of adversity.

            Nevertheless, there are several manners in which Wrecking Ball does not quite achieve the spirit of its title. Although the political and social diatribes one expects from Springsteen keep the album thematically relevant, very little of Wrecking Ball is particularly innovative. Whilst it would be unreasonable to demand all artistic veterans to break the mould with every release, much of Springsteen's impact on popular culture stems from his sense of ambition. This is why a track like the ten minute epic 'Jungleland' (1975) can still capture the public consciousness with its tragic urban narrative told to a varied musical backdrop. For this reason, a finer balance between protest songs and conceptual pieces on Wrecking Ball could have proven more appreciable.

            Another problem the album suffers is that whilst it commendably attempts to root itself in Springsteen's more folk-orientated sound, Wrecking Ball's lavish and at times bombastic production can run contrary to its lyrical expressions of working class heroism. With this considered, a few more tracks of a 'stripped-down' nature, in the same vein as Nebraska (1982), could have better conveyed the album's proletarian themes.

            That said, Wrecking Ball is still an addition to Springsteen's body of work that ought to be welcomed. Although it does not meet the creative high-water mark that gave 'The Boss' his world-acclaimed status, the album still proves one important respect in which Springsteen has remained true to form: he is still a man with a message deserving of attention. If he can continue to maintain such a drive and work ethic into his old age, then I for one look forward to whatever else the New Jersey legend has in store for his listeners.

Rating: 4/5


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