What a relief - after a couple of middling albums ("Magic," which featured the rush of "Radio Nowhere" but little else, and "Working on a Dream," a thin album filled with lazy melodies) Bruce Springsteen's "Wrecking Ball" is a lively record through which the Boss recaptures his spirit. It's easily his best album since "The Rising" and an exciting rebirth for an artist that pop rock desperately needs in fighting form.
He still can't find his poetic muse (His lyrics feature duds like "So if you got the guts, mister, yeah if you've got the balls/If you think it's your time, then step to the line, and bring on your wrecking ball") but that doesn't really matter. He's the Rocky of the music world and he's got us cheering again in the 17th round.
The album begins with a rallying cry, "We Take Care of Our Own," which is a true anthem that takes us "From Chicago to New Orleans/ From the muscle to the bone/ From the shotgun shack to the Superdome." It's one that should get everyone singing along with warm hearts in bars, "Wherever this flag's flown/ We take care of our own." Some people might have a beef with the song's blatant patriotism, but for such a divided country, can something that tries to bring us together through love of sports, work, family and place be that bad?
Bruce Springsteen released his new album, “Wrecking Ball,” Tuesday. The release is his 17th album and is available at his website, www.bruce springsteen.net
The song is followed by the easy flow of "Easy Money" and the galloping grit of "Shackled and Drawn." These songs are the first instances of Springsteen successfully incorporating the Seeger influence into his songwriting. They have the "roll" that most pop rock is missing these days - the part that Keith Richards said was the most important half of rock 'n' roll in a Rolling Stone article.
After the Irish-flavored "Death to My Hometown," which pushes the "old timey" feel a little further, the album slows down a bit with "This Depression," an enjoyable but sluggish ballad.
The second half of the record falters - particularly with the awful "You've Got it," which ironically, has nothing going for it - empty lyrics, no energy and no melody.
The biggest standout track, it has to be said, is "Wrecking Ball," which Springsteen tore through on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" last week. Here, his Arcade Fire-influence is put on full display. The Canadian rockers name him as a huge influence and now he's laying their influence on him bare. The LA Times said that the "propulsive energy" of Arcade Fire "drives much of 'Wrecking Ball.' " Add to that the ballooning, sing-a-long chorus at the end of the song that has become a trademark of the band. It's instantly recognizable but it suits Springsteen perfectly.
This album will delight any fan of Bruce and should serve as a welcome addition to your Boss collection. It's uneven, certainly, but the good songs far outweigh the bad.
DOWNLOAD NOW: "Wrecking Ball," "Shackled and Drawn."