Review : Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run
SputnikmusicWe can compare modern “working-class” bands with Bruce Springsteen all we want, but the simple fact is that no one has ever done it better. Maybe no one besides him has ever done it, period. Today's bands of that ilk are really just the heartbroken songwriters of indie's milieu dressed in blue collars. They give the impression that somehow they are easier to relate to because their lyrical wheelhouse consists of small towns, of nondescript cars, and of bills to be paid. They take wrong turns when they presumptuously attempt to be the right band for a certain age. What they don't understand is that the age from which Springsteen sprung was the right age for him. It is not less noble for a band to take a look around them and hope to comment on or even combat events with their music. But it is better when music is written as a product of a microcosm (say, growing up in Asbury Park) and then naturally comes to embody a macrocosm (America in general). The idea is that listeners will see their own story in the songs instead of just hearing something with clever lyrics that they'd like to sing along to or remember to quote later on in conversation, which can create an illusion of familiarity.
It is this essential quality that sets him apart from everyone else even after all these years. His fictional characters are easier to relate to than any modern indie song sung in the first person. It has been interesting to watch this particular musical shift. How is it that a song rife with such nameless characters as the Magic Rat and the Barefoot Girl, with imagery of Exxon signs and ambulance lights and death in those lonely corridors of the city seems more homely than any song about the end of a relationship which, presumably, any listener would be able to relate to much more. It is as if the old rules have been transferred from stone tablets to pieces of notebook paper, frequently scratched out and rewritten to fit the latest trends. That storytelling trait has, with a few exceptions, long been absent from music and perhaps that is telling. What makes Springsteen's music so great is that his stories and characters made it all the more affecting when he did write something personal. When he personally wondered if love was real it sounded more genuine because of similar, prior sentiments from the lonesome, wandering denizens of Asbury Park. Story echoed real-life and vice versa, each lending weight to one another....full text
SuperseventiesThe song titles by themselves -- "Thunder Road," "Night," "Backstreets," "Born to Run," "Jungleland" -- suggest the extraordinary dramatic authority that is at the heart of Springsteen's new music. It is the drama that counts; the stories Springsteen is telling are nothing new, though no one has ever told them better or made them matter more. Their familiar romance is half their power: The promise and the threat of the night; the lure of the road; the quest for a chance worth taking and the lust to pay its price; girls glimpsed once at 80 miles and hour and never forgotten; the city streets as the last, permanent American frontier. We know the story: one thousand and one American nights, one long night of fear and love.
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What is new is the majesty Springsteen and his band have brought to this story. Springsteen's singing, his words and the band's music have turned the dreams and failures two generations have dropped along the road into an epic -- an epic that began when that car went over the cliff in Rebel without a Cause. One feels that all it ever meant, all it ever had to say, is on this album, brought forth with a determination one would have thought was burnt out years ago. One feels that the music Springsteen has made from this long story has outstripped the story; that it is, in all its fire, a demand for something new.
In one sense, all this talk of epic comes down to sound. Rolling Stone contributing editor Jon Landau, Mike Appel and Springsteen produced Born to Run in a style as close to mono as anyone can get these days; the result is a sound full of grandeur. For all it owes to Phil Spector, it can be compared only to the music Bob Dylan & the Hawks made onstage in 1965 and '66. With that sound, Springsteen has achieved something very special. He has touched his world with glory, without glorifying anything: not the unbearable pathos of the street fight in "Jungleland," not the scared young lovers of "Backstreets" and not himself.
"Born to Run" is the motto that speaks for the album's tales, just as the guitar figure that runs through the title song -- the finest compression of rock & roll thrill since the opening riffs of "Layla" -- speaks for its music. But "Born to Run" is uncomfortably close to another talisman of the lost kids that careen across this record, a slogan Springsteen's motto inevitably suggests. It is an old tattoo: "Born to Lose." Springsteen's songs -- filled with recurring images of people stranded, huddled, scared, crying, dying -- take place in the space between "Born to Run" and "Born to Lose," as if to say, the only run worth making is the one that forces you to risk losing everything you have. Only by taking that risk can you hold on to the faith that you have something left to lose. Springsteen's heroes and heroines face terror and survive it, face delight and die by its hand, and then watch as the process is reversed, understanding finally that they are paying the price of romanticizing their own fear....full text
StylusmagazineThe last time Bruce Springsteen came through town was the anti-climactic The Rising Tour. Ten thousand chiming crystal telecasters with only a few brief moments of the brilliance not hoped for but expected. For 15 years you wished he’d bring back the E Street Band and when the dream baby dream finally came true it wasn’t really what you hoped for, was it? Too much, too big. He grabbed the shadow, missed the substance, and in the end it just wasn’t 1984 and I just wasn’t two.
But one night at Madison Square Garden he played “Into the Fire,” his 9/11-invoking tribute to New York’s Finest, followed immediately by “41 Shots: American Skin,” his gigantic “fuck you” to New York’s Finest, with this cop sitting next to me going absolutely pandashit insane, screaming at the stage from our crappy seats on the opposite side of the arena until he was forcibly restrained and removed by security. Only then did I think, “Man, this is freaking awesome.” In one subtle set list sequence, Springsteen proved still capable of provocation and power and it meant a hell of a lot more than 20 straight minutes of “Mary’s Place.”
Moments like these are only fleeting now, so it’s easy to forget that Born to Run—his definitive if not best album celebrating its 30th anniversary with a tremendous and satisfyingly complete reissue—is almost overwhelmingly saturated with them. The reissue is as much an opportunity to revisit why the album is so jaw-droppingly amazing as it is a chance to see how it has aged; how Springsteen himself as an artist has aged. Truth be told he’s hit some bumps (Human Touch) along (Ghost of Tom Joad) the way (The Rising), to make no mention of that fact that from the second Born to Run was pressed to vinyl, Springsteen never again even attempted to write songs as musically and lyrically ambitious in scope. Granted, he’s written some truly great songs since (“Racing in the Street,” “No Surrender,” “Highway Patrolman,” “Two Faces”), but to hear the epic mini-suites of Born to Run with their wall-of-sound production and extravagant tales of just-shy-of-unreasonable romanticism against, say, “Hungry Heart,” and you’re liable to get your wig pushed back....full text
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