Bruce Springsteen‘s new CD, “Wrecking Ball,” is streaming for free all day today on www.brucespringsteen.net. It’s getting mixed reviews, but I’m enjoying it tremendously. No matter what Bruce and the E Street Band do, it’s several cuts above anything else out there. “Wrecking Ball”– with Bruce playing drums on some cuts–is a departure from some of his old work and similar to some of it, too. Without Clarence Clemons, the E Street Band has been rejiggered. There are horns, but you’re not going to hear “Rosalita” or “Thunder Road.” Artists evolve. Springsteen has come through Pete Seeger and other episodes.
“Wrecking Ball” reflects his deep political thoughts about the status of working men and women. Yes, it’s his State of the Nation address–the recession, the economy, the way we’re living is very much on his mind. It’s gritty and folksy. It’s also got plenty of soul. Bruce would have been a great WPA muralist. Particularly striking are “Jack of All Trades” and “Land of Hopes and Dreams,” the latter a a very cool E Street epic track that has already become a concert classic. (It’s great to have it in proper studio form.)
“You’ve Got It” sounds like a natural radio song–dare I say a “single”–reminiscent of “Fire” and “Hungry Heart.” It’s damn catchy. Listen to “This Depression” to get a sense of where Springsteen’s heart and mind are now. Reading some early reviews I think it’s a mistake to take Springsteen at face value, to not let the totality sink in. “Wrecking Ball” is not simple, it’s not Coldplay or Arctic Monkeys or Arcade Fire. Like Paul Simon, there’s an artist working here. And I think the current tides of listening run too fast to appreciate that. “Wrecking Ball” is tough, but it’s a pleasure, and extremely satisfying.
More on Springsteen as the week progresses. He plays the Apollo Theater in Harlem on Friday, launching a long worldwide tour. The Apollo show will be broadcast on SiriusXM, which does the most interesting one off music specials on radio.