Wrecking Ball Review: Springsteen and Alaska

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I bought “Wrecking ball” on a whim while driving from Wasilla to Talkeetna today. Other than a few performances on Late Night recently, I hadn’t heard anything about the new Springsteen album. 

But my father-in-law declined my offer to drive today, so I needed to do something to take my mind off the fact that I hate not driving. It’s a control thing. 

The 3G disappeared somewhere between the Parks Highway and Talkeetna, but it picked up again after lunch. By the time the album downloaded to my iPhone, we were our way to Cantwell. 

The first time through I listened to the music. Nothing outstanding here, big guitars and lots of drums. Trumpet solos and bagpipes. I would say typical Bruce, but that’s not entirely true. The arrangements are nothing without the lyrical mastery of one of America’s most unheralded songwriters. 

The second time through I listened to the writing. 

I was raised out here in the swamps of Jersey, some misty years ago / Through the mud and beer and the blood and the cheers I’ve seen champions come and go / So if you’ve 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 your wrecking ball 

I feel I’ve come to know New Jersey well through Springsteen’s writing. He often conveys a sense of the place that rarely relates to other places. 

That wasn’t the case with “Wrecking Ball.” 

As we drove through the two Alaskas, the urban cliff dwelling known as the Anchorage Bowl and Wasilla-Palmer sprawl and into the interior along the George Parks Highway, I played the songs of “Wrecking Ball” not from a Jersey perspective, but from an Alaska perspective.

There are very few songs that make me feel patriotic and fewer albums. 

Listening to “Wrecking Ball” while driving through Alaska made me feel patriotic. 

Now my home was here in the Meadowlands, where mosquitoes grow big as airplanes / Here where the blood is spilled the arena’s filled, and Giants play the game / So raise up your glasses and let me hear your voices call / Come on!

Not that football and drinking are necessarily the paragons of patriotism, but then it wasn’t one song that made me feel patriotic. 

I suppose it was the reference to mosquitoes as big as airplanes. What’s more Alaska than that?

But it gets better. The first song on the album goes on to perfectly describe an Alaska that has met the business side of the wrecking ball.

Yeah we know that come tomorrow, none of this will be here / So hold tight on your anger / Hold tight on your anger / Hold tight to your anger, and don’t fall to your fear

You think Jersey, I think sea ice and permafrost. 

Listen to the second song on the album, “We take care of our own,” and you’ll hear unrepentant references to the recession, health care or lack thereof, bank bailouts, the politics of greed.

I hear the same thing. And it makes me feel something, which good words and music should. 

Find your way through “Wrecking Ball” while driving somewhere remote and beautiful or while driving through Detroit. It’ll make you pissed off and patriotic, which go wonderfully together like basil and tomatoes.

Music should make you feel something. And right now I want to run and scream and cry and shoot something or swing a bat violently at a small white ball and run and run. 

Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” is everything you feel pent up and uncomfortable about expressed in a voice we can all mostly agree with. 


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