There will be those who recoil at the thought of a millionaire rock star singing about poor people and hard work the way Bruce Springsteen does on his juggernaut of a new album, Wrecking Ball.
However, to do so would be short-sighted as anyone who has seen The Boss live in the past 40 years knows that he can put a shift in and doesn’t shy away from hard graft to please his fans.
His words have never sounded like those of a millionaire’s but more like the pedigree Jersey shore rat who was raised in economically depressed Freehold, N.J., Thus, Springsteen knows a thing or two about economic frustration.
Wrecking Ball is Springsteen's 17th studio album and although he is exploring familiar working class territory, this is one of his most experimental albums to date.
The protagonists of the album, produce by Springsteen with Ron Aniello, are going through very difficult times indeed and just listening to it can feel like an ordeal now and then.
This is Springsteen’s response to the banking crisis and like any good fight back, numbers are key and is as if Springsteen is trying to relate to as many different types of people as possible with this mixture whilst blending it with the Springsteen guitar sound.
For example, Irish tin whistles can be heard on Death to My Hometown, Italian Mandolin on Jack of All Trades, even a rap and gospel sounds appear, unexpectedly, on Rocky Ground.
Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine) plays guitar on This Depression and Jack of All Trades while the familiar tones of the late Clarence Clemons saxophone ring out on title track Wrecking Ball and The Land of Hope and Dreams.
With its gritty portrayal of the danger at hand when lives are being lived on the edge of collapse, Wrecking Ball recalls previous works such as Nebraska, The River and not unlike The Ghost of Tom Joad, though the newer record has a far larger and more ‘produced’ sound. It is certainly more comparable to those than the two albums which preceded it, Magic and Working on a Dream.
More than anything though, Wrecking Ball is an experimental record with a lot of heart and real anger at the core of it.
Track-by-track run down:
1. We Take Care of Our Own
With the backbone of a pounding kick drum the opening track unleashes the feeling of the album and sets the tone perfectly. If you’ve got tickets to see The Boss this summer I imagine this will be the set-opener.
2. Easy Money
There is a real country feel and lax attitude about this song which decries ‘all them fat cats’ who laugh as the working-class man’s life falls apart. Women are often told to ‘put on their red dress’ in Springsteen songs but not usually to go and commit crime as in this one!
3. Shackled and Drawn
A prison-style working song, the type with a simple beat which wielding a pick-axe to the sound to could help the work pass easier. There’s a lot of hooting and shouting, all in the face of helplessness.
4. Jack Of All Trades
A tender ballad about a man willing to do whatever it takes to provide for his family. However, it becomes decidedly less tender as the song draws to a close, with the singer expressing an uneasy willingness to ‘shoot the bastards on sight’, followed by a provoking guitar-solo.
5. Death To My Hometown
Springsteen treats us to a lovely Irish accent on this celtic-style ballad with African rhythm and an overall pounding and relentless sound. It also has one of the most descriptive lyrics on the album about a town which was destroyed and robbed without a single shot being fired.
6. This Depression
There is some inspired guitar work by Tom Morello on this track which is by far, the most morose on the album. The singer begs ‘This is my confession; I need your heart in this depression.’
7. Wrecking Ball
A classic Springsteen sound rings true on this track with passion and defiance it’s main concern and since it features Clarence Clemons on the saxophone, this is one for the purists.
8. You’ve Got It
Another one for the hardcore fans looking for some ‘classic Springsteen’, this is the lightest song on the album. Easy going and bluesy; it is older and wiser than his early records but could have fitted into The Rising or 18 Tracks.
9. Rocky Ground
This is unlike anything Springsteen has done before and it is deeply ambitious with its gospel sounds and rap, which Springsteen wrote himself, sung by Michelle Moore. Ambitious it is but it works and, arguably, this is the only Springsteen album it could be featured on; it fits with the theme of the record.
10. The Land of Hope and Dreams
‘Meet me in the Land of Hope and Dreams’ sounds distinctly more promising than ‘Meet me in the darkness on the edge of town’ yet it shares the anthemic sound offered by Darkness. Not a new song to hardcore fans as this has closed many a show over the years since around 2009 and has added nostalgia for having one of the last saxophone solos by Clemons.
11. We Are Alive
This is an odd song and it’s difficult to pinpoint its most distinctive quality with so many things going on, including a Ring of Fire-esque riff at the end. It makes for a fantastic bookend with We Take Care of Our Own to a diverse album that looks likely to split opinion.
The album is due for release on Monday March 5 on Columbia Records. A special edition of 'Wrecking Ball' will also be available and include two bonus tracks and exclusive artwork and photography.