Review – Bruce Springsteen’s Working On a Dream
– by Adrian Mack
In 2000, I watched Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band from the bleachers at the Tacoma Dome and sobbed like a big girl’s blouse. I was with my dad. We had waited 20 years to see the Boss. It was easily one of the two or three top concert experiences of my life.
In the nine years that have passed, I have become a miserable cunt who more or less hates everything except my family, a handful of old country albums, and Australian sex movies from the ’70s. That’s just part of the aging process and nothing to get your knickers in a twist over, but it makes my job difficult.
Which brings us to Springsteen’s new album, Working On a Dream. I’m trying to re-ignite the flame, but there’s just so much to bitch about re: this new Boss album, starting with the overall nature of the enterprise.
Brucie’s last album Magic is generally considered to be the weary-pouty-angry political record, and Working On a Dream (fuck I hate that title) the “personal” and altogether lighter enterprise with all its references to “love” and “life” and “dreams” and blah-de-blah. My feelings about this are mixed, falling somewhere between shut the fuck up you woolly-headed arse, and arrrrgh.
Moaning about seven years of Bush-Cheney was a no-brainer, but addressing the continuing problems of an Empire gone nuts would take balls. And we know Springsteen has a pair, because he shoved them in our face at that military recruiting fantasy we call the Superbowl, right?
Funny that – Janet Jackson’s black-grape fruitgum nipple almost destroyed the country, but Bruce’s junk inspires mindless hosannas. What a fuckin’ mess. In any event, the Boss is happy these days – we all know that he finally backed a winner in the US “election”, and we all know that Working On a Dream is forever joined at the hands with the whole Obama thing.
What amazes me, since you didn’t ask, is the notion that Obama actually won anything. Am I the only person around here who realizes that the Republicans threw the election? If they wanted to win, they would have just stolen the fucker again, like they did in 2000 and 2004. Don’t you people see this?!?! McCain was the fall guy. I actually kind of feel sorry for the dumb rube, even if he is a Nazi.
Speaking of the Superbowl, and ignoring for the moment the essential crapness of medleys, I have to lodge my extreme dismay with Springsteen’s closing statement therein about “going to Disneyland.” As if hypno-programming an entire nation with this water-brained half-time football nonsense isn’t enough, Springsteen has to bring Mouschwitz into the equation, too?
Look, I’ll save the Disney rant for another column – assuming I don’t get fired for this one – but basically let me just go on the record here and say that if somebody put a gun to my head and forced me to either make my kid watch a Disney movie or make my kid smoke a joint, I would opt for the joint.
Not that I’m blind to the dangers of introducing cannabis into the system of a three-and-a-half-year old, but I’m not blind to the vast Nazi-generated social engineering program hatched by Uncle Walt, either – and I’m well aware which of those two things is being aggressively marketed to my child’s tender developing brain.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone really (but it does) that the former head of research and development at Disney became the Director of Research at the NSA. Here, check it out. They’re BFFs. How fucking adorable!
So listen Boss, you admit you fucked up with the whole Walmart thing, which is tremendously manful of you, but how about thinking BEFORE you open your trap in future? Disney = Walmart = Superbowl = entertainment wing of the Military-Industrial-Complex = Bruce’s foot in his mouth, got it?
Meanwhile, back on Earth, Working On a Dream opens with a track called “Outlaw Pete” which is an over-cooked stab at the kind of multi-part, mythically-proportioned Broadway-via-the Boardwalk grandiosity the E Street band turned its back on after Born to Run. The less said the better, which goes double for “Good Eye”, wherein Bruce does old-man whitey Delta blues of the constipated George Thorogood or Big Sugar variety. It’s just astoundingly awful.
In the plus column we have “Tomorrow Never Knows”, which is a fleet little country shuffle that soothes like a healing shark’s liver oil balm on the sphincter-tearing grunt-a-thon that precedes it. The Hollywood strings and what seems to be a children’s choir (in my stolen 256 kbps copy, anyway) don’t hurt either.
The title track is also pleasant enough, especially given it’s fragrant and unBossy little overture. Bruce is going for jangly folk rock here, beefed up with the pure pop magic of “Hungry Heart”, and then beefed up again with Springsteen’s beetle-browed, thick-limbed Jersey essence i.e it still sounds like the Boss, which is why “Life Itself” is the more interesting reach in the same direction, with tense and quivering chord progressions underpinning the guitar section’s sharp pastiche of the Byrds circa ’66. Same with “This Life”, which is chiming and hearty and impossible to resist.
A majestic middle-eight in the altogether wonderful “Kingdom of Days” also explores parts unknown of the musical scale. It’s here, and in the “Life” duology that WOAD works best – I’m all for the Boss trying on new voices.
And on that note, his track for the Mickey Rourke movie The Wrestler caps the whole affair with a song that has most middle-aged cracker rock critics laying long white ropes of hot pecker-snot across their own feet, because it sounds like Springsteen doing Springsteen, or Springsteen doing Eddie Vedder doing Springsteen, or something.
Whatever the hell it is, I have to part with the consensus. It’s a fucking horrible piece of music with faux-Guthrie noble-loser poetics that might actually be even more swivel-eyed than all that “aisles and aisles of dreams” baloney that makes “Queen of the Supermarket” so unlistenable. For downbeat Boss, not to mention a stronger album closer, stick with the gorgeous “The Last Carnival” – which has a Gordon Lightfoot feel (never a bad thing).
I’d love to see Gordon Lightfoot get his cock out at the Grey Cup.