Bruce Springsteen is mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it anymore. At least that’s the impression one gets after listening to songs like Shackled And Drawn, Jack Of All Trades and Death To My Hometown. It sounds like he’s aligned himself with the Occupy Movement and is ready to rail against the one per cent, calling them fat cats, greedy thieves and bastards, “whose crimes have gone unpunished”.
But just as Bruce understood in the 80s, when Born In The USA became a subversive anthem against blind patriotism, he takes the jingoistic slogan, We Take Care Of Our Own, and turns it around against itself in the opening track of this ambitious new album.
Springsteen’s ambitious are huge. He’s using his complete sonic arsenal to try and shake some sense into the complacent middle-class Americans that are being routinely dumped on every day. And so he’s employed Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello to fire up a couple of stirring guitar solos on Jack Of All Trades and The Depression. He uses religious imagery to seduce fundamentalists into hearing his potentially “blasphemous” message. He even calls on the ghost of Clarence Clemons for one last stadium-shaking sax solo. Musically Springsteen and his new producing partner Ron Aniello mix everything from Irish pennywhistles, gospel field recordings, classic rock guitar solos and even a rap, into what turns out to be Springsteen’s most musically satisfying record in years…maybe ever.
Sure, things get a bit overblown at times, and of course Bruce takes on the voice of the blue-collar working man, the poor, the down-trodden…that’s his stock and trade…but he’s darn good at it.
While song titles like Shackled And Drawn, Death To My Hometown and This Depression may sound, well, depressing…that’s not the case. Springsteen and his fellow musicians (and there are loads of them) inject just the right amount of joy and fun into the proceedings to keep the album from being a collection of dirges. So despite the heavy nature of Shackled And Drawn, there’s some good old-fashioned whooping and hollering in the track as well.
After hearing the first few minutes of We Take Care Of Our Own, it would be understandable to assume that this is an E-Street Band record, but actually drummer Max Weinberg and sax player Clemons are the only two band members on the album, and they are used sparingly. Instead, Bruce has made a record that confidently combines all the musical territory he has previously covered (and added some) to come up with a truly stirring, heartfelt, at times anthemic album, perfectly paced and with a message that needs to be heard.
Click here to listen to Shackled And Drawn from Wrecking Ball: