Wrecking Ball, Bruce Springsteen’s forthcoming album, was born to run online. Starting on Monday morning, Sony began streaming a song a day on various websites. The Globe and Mail will stream a new track daily at 12:01 a.m., for a 24-hour period.
The album is a furious response to America’s current economic crisis: “What was done to our country was wrong and unpatriotic and un-American, and nobody has been held to account,” the Born in the USA singer told The Guardian newspaper. “There is a real patriotism underneath the best of my music but it is a critical, questioning and often angry patriotism.”
The album, the 62-year-old icon’s 17th studio LP, is to be released in full on March 6. A tour with the E-Street Band begins March 18 in Atlanta and has 20 North American dates before heading to Europe in May. The closest the Boss comes to Canada on the tour’s first leg are shows at Boston’s TD Garden (March 26), Detroit’s Palace of Auburn Hills (April 12), Buffalo’s First Niagara Center (April 13) and Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena (April 17). The full schedule is at www.brucespringsteen.net.
Wrecking Ball: Track by Track
We Take Care of Our Own: The Badlands-style rocker with a message that’s by turns protest (“There ain’t hope/ the cavalry stayed at home”) and rallying cry (“Where’s the promise from sea to shining sea?”) is an anthemic lead single that will have politicians scratching their head over whether to use it as a campaign song. Springsteen cleared up any ambiguity at a recent press conference: “A big promise has been broken. You can't have a United States if you are telling some folks that they can't get on the train.” The song’s message is that government dropped the ball post-Katrina, letting down the flood victims and leaving it to the people themselves to take care of their own.
Easy Money: An Average Joe turns criminal, hitting the town with a Smith & Wesson, looking for that same colour of money stolen by the white-collar fat cats. A folk-rocking protest song has clapping modern beats, fiddles and loops of the Boss’s hayseed “whoop!”
Shackled and Drawn: “What’s a poor boy to do, but keep singing this song, woke up this morning shackled and drawn.” Springsteen, the working-man’s hero, hails the Protestant work ethic – “A shovel in the dirt keeps the devil gone” – on a gung-ho country-blues tune with a thudding backbeat, a hearty strum, a sing-along chorus and more yee-haw yelping. A sepia-toned gospel bit fades things out.
Jack of All Trades (to be released Wednesday): A slow-moving piano waltz breaks into a fluid, un-Springsteen-like guitar solo on this salute to the handyman. A line winks at Woody Guthrie: “A banking man grows fat, a working man grows thin/ It’s all happened before, and it’ll happen again.”
Death to My Hometown (Thursday): Decidedly upbeat despite the title, this Celtic-styled stomper raises a fife and a pint to a town decimated by corporate types who might as well have fired cannons. A balladeer’s response? “Get yourself a song to sing and sing it till you’re done/ yeah, sing it hard and sing it well.…”
This Depression (Friday): “This is my confession: I need your heart in this depression.” On a big-beat ballad, a little of that human touch is the best remedy for sorry economic indicators.
Wrecking Ball (Monday, Feb. 27): This sweeping, defiant, horns-a-blowin’ rocker is sure to be a hit the next time Springsteen plays the home of football’s New York Giants. The big song remembers the team’s former gridiron at the now demolished Giants Stadium: “The game has been decided, and we’re burning down the clock/ and all of our little victories and glories have turned into parking lots.” A metaphor, for the wrecking balls that turn our own past triumphs into so much rubble and dust.
You've Got It (Tuesday, Feb. 28): The album’s rare non-political track is a homage to what a woman possesses – things that can’t be taught or bought. A mid-tempo, sweet-swinging rocker ends with a squalling guitar – one of those new sonic textures from producer Ron Aniello, who worked with Springsteen’s wife Patti Scialfa on her Play It as It Lays album from 2007 and now produces the Boss himself for the first time.
Rocky Ground (Wednesday, Feb. 29): The freshest of the album’s 11 tracks features the gospel singer Michelle Moore, who nimbly floats the song’s sweet hook and delivers a brief rap too. The optimistic rock hymn about a new day coming is arranged with a hip-hop beat, a sombre brass part, big choral uplift and a looped vocal growl – “I’m a soldier” – from Springsteen.
Land of Hope and Dreams (Thursday, March 1): “Grab your ticket and your suitcase, thunder's rolling down this track.” The buoyant, oversized, preacher-man-rock number incorporates beat-box effects, mandolin twinkles, an early-song crescendo, the Bronx-based Victorious Gospel Choir, a quote from Curtis Mayfield’s People Get Ready, a blaring sax solo from the late Clarence Clemons and a hopeful destiny. The dynamic Land of Hope and Dreams has been heard previously by live audiences as far back as 1999.
We Are Alive (Friday, March 2): “A voice cried out, I was killed in Maryland in 1877, when the railroad workers made their stand/ Well, I was killed in 1963 one Sunday morning in Birmingham.…” The album closes with a rousing, banjo-loving flourish and chest-swelling affirmation, set to a hopping Celtic lope that slips smoothly into Johnny Cash’s mariachi Ring of Fire twang. All in all, a tribute to freedom fighters past and present.