Saturday, October 17, 2009

My Music Year #6

My Bruce Springsteen fandom goes back 25 years to when I heard the singles from Born in the U.S.A. on the radio. It wasn't until my 14th birthday in 1985 that I got the whole album (on cassette, having received a Walkman for a Christmas present in 1984) and I spent months listening to it while doing a wide variety of chores outside. The live boxed set that came out in 1986 introduced me to a lot more of his music and I became a true fan. Naturally, I bought his latest album, Working On A Dream, the day it came out.

The title track was out and about before the album came out and it's a good indicator of the album's feel as a whole. Springsteen is definitely working in a pop mode, and I love the little bass run by Gary W. Tallent that opens this song. We get melody and some background "la, la, la-la"s with an uplifting message. It's not his best song but it is solid.

The bass is a bit more upfront on the whole album than previous E Street records and I enjoy hearing it. Springsteen and the E Street Band have been working together for more than 35 years and I love all the little touches they bring. "My Lucky Day" starts out as a run-of-the-mill pop song but when Steve Van Zandt starts harmonizing on the second verse, the song seems to catch another gear and everything just seems sharper.

Some reviewers had a problem with "Queen of the Supermarket," specifically the lyrics. They were reading the song as some sort of commentary on the state of American consumerism but to me it's just a love song set in a supermarket with some nimble bass and a solid pop feel that gets a bit operatic before an odd little outro.

I'll admit to not being the biggest fan of the album opener, "Outlaw Pete." It's a tall tale that really goes on a couple minutes too long. I do enjoy the bonus track, the Oscar-nominated "The Wrestler" from the movie of the same name, although I don't think I've ever seen a one-legged dog.

The back half of the album holds some real gems. "Tomorrow Never Knows" has a lovely folk pop beat (and borrows the title from The Beatles) and "Life Itself" is filled with urgency and nice guitar texture. Finally, the acoustic-based "Last Carnival" is a tribute to the late E Streeter Dan Federici and is effective due to the brevity and tone and some beautiful gospel coos at the end.

Will this be one of the Springsteen albums I listen to over and over and over again? No, and it hasn't been. Is it yet another solid album in his long career? Absolutely.

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