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Wellington Daily News - Wellington, KS
Bruce Springsteen fans from Asbury Park and beyond blog about The Boss
COMMENTARY: Bruce Springsteen’s pedestal problem
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The writers of this blog are not music critics, and they don't consider a second (or third, fourth or fifth) mortgage to be a perfectly reasonable course of action to pay for front-row tickets, but despite being a whole lot more middle aged than ...
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Bruce Springsteen
The writers of this blog are not music critics, and they don't consider a second (or third, fourth or fifth) mortgage to be a perfectly reasonable course of action to pay for front-row tickets, but despite being a whole lot more middle aged than they were when they first put \x34Born in the U.S.A.\x34 or \x34The River\x34 down on the turntable, still feels like Bruce has something -- OK, a lot of things -- to say about our country and the way we live our lives, things that not a lot of other artists are saying. And whether he's talking about the knife that can cut this pain from your heart, the house that's waiting for you to walk in or what that flag flying over the courthouse means, he's nailing down feelings that are so universal that they can raise your spirits and break your heart at the same time. Plus, let¹s face it, the man rocks.
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By Pete Chianca
Dec. 1, 2013 11:10 a.m.

Is it time to let Bruce Springsteen down off his pedestal?

Is it time to let Bruce Springsteen down off his pedestal?



It can’t be easy being Bruce Springsteen. Plenty of respected artists of his generation — Neil Young, Elvis Costello and Eric Clapton come to mind — get to travel down whatever creative alley they feel like with nary a blip on their fan base radar. As long as it’s a new release, great! Album of covers?  Songs written years or decades ago? An album called “Old Sock”? All’s fair in love and music, and if it’s a noble failure, there’s always next time.

Springsteen, though, gets no such leeway — just take a look at the reaction to news of “High Hopes,” which will come out in January and feature a mix of re-recorded outtakes, covers and new versions of songs previously released elsewhere. There’s been no shortage of grousing, including (but not limited to) the following complaints:

1) This is all old stuff — is he out of ideas?

2) Tom Morello on eight tracks? What about Stevie and Nils?

3) Oh my God, COVERS?

4) The album cover art is stupid.

And while I’m usually the first one to dismiss complaints issued before an album is released (or even leaked, er, not that I’d know anything about that), I have to admit I get it, especially about the covers. Bruce Springsteen doesn’t include covers on his albums! He does original, finely honed material that he labors over for months to ensure the synthesis of musical and thematic perfection! He yells “stick!” for hours on end when he hears imaginary drumstick noises on the playback! HE’S NOT LIKE THE OTHER GUYS!

And there is where Springsteen’s perfectionist past comes back to haunt him. We’ve all heard the stories of the marathon sessions for “Born to Run” and “Darkness,” the retakes, the winnowing down, the thematic scrutiny. He hasn’t worked that way in years — not really — and yet he carries with him this reputation as a singular perfectionist for whom every release must be a potential masterpiece. How he lives with those expectations is, frankly, beyond me — I don’t think I could get out of bed in the morning. I have enough trouble as it is, and nobody expects anything of me.

I’d argue, though, that it’s fortunate for us that it doesn’t seem to faze him. I’d love for every album to be brilliantly conceived and executed as much as the next fan — but not if it means three years between releases. That’s a much longer time when you’re 63 than when you’re 27, and Bruce seems to be working with that in mind: If he doesn’t put out his albums of big-band folk songs, homages to ‘60s melodic pop or interpretations of obscure covers now, then when? Even if it’s not entirely original material, he’s shown in his concerts that his take on old songs and genres is always worth hearing — why not in the studio too?

I still say that Springsteen has more to say about the way we live today than most artists working, and did so ingeniously as recently as 2012 with “Wrecking Ball.” I also thought 2007’s “Magic,” as a stinging indictment of the Bush years, was one of the best and most important works of the decade. I wouldn’t classify “Working on a Dream” the same way, and probably won’t for “High Hopes” either — but I’m also not prepared to start wailing and rending my garments over it. Instead I’ll appreciate them for whatever pleasures they do offer; I’d actually argue that “WOAD” had more than its share, contrary to popular opinion, and I bet “High Hopes” will too.

Generally, I lean toward being grateful that Springsteen, wading toward the mid-way point of his seventh decade on the planet, is proving more willing to take unexpected detours down unexplored alleyways. It may mean we’ll never see another “Born to Run,” but we’ve already got the first one, which is more than enough. I’d rather see Bruce permanently removed from the pedestal his fans tend to place him on, so he can wrestle his various muses to the ground and see what it yields — brilliant cohesive works and offbeat side trips both. And yes, even the noble failures.

Like those album covers. Gotta concede that one.

What are your thoughts on “High Hopes” — looking forward to it like any Springsteen release, or does the mix of old songs and covers leave you cold? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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