Monday, August 12, 2002
ON "THE RISING" BY BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN
by Wayne Robins
Even though this was billed as the first full-blown album Springsteen has recorded with his now touring E Street Band in a dog's lifetime, the cover of the CD of "The Rising" is credited only to Bruce Springsteen. This is as personal a Springsteen album as "Nebraska," "Human Touch," or "Lucky Town."
The New York Times editorial pages have run two stories about Springsteen in the last four days. That's not to count the arts and leisure cover story in July and the usual mystifyingly-written, weirdly-reasoned concert review by Kelefa Sanneh.
So, 9/11 looms like a harvest moon over the cornfields of Springsteen's soul, it seems. Like the Dow Jones Industrial Average, things are rising and falling, rising and falling, but at the moment, there's not much traction. We're not talking about the difference between despair and rapture. We're talking about the bipolar extremes of our post 9/11 country, which are: Feeling sorta good, or feeling sorta bad. We're stuck in the restless middle, the way we probably always were. It's just now we know it, and have to face it.
So far none of the right wing pundits who absolutely dominate the so-called liberal media monopoly have blamed the stock market woes on Springsteen...the blowhards and bloviators from Bill O'Reilly to Ann Coulter would never pick on someone who actually works for a living, or Springsteen, whom they perceive as the idealized stand-in for the working class.
Some songs: "Mary's Place," obviously an anachronism, a party at which we once would have stayed for hours. Now, it's like, okay, maybe I'll drop in for a ginger ale, then I gotta be going. It stands out like a subtle joke in "Goldmember" would have.
"Into The Fire" would be a great tune for one of the new breed of steroid-hatted country singers to cover if they weren't into doing their own facile red, white and blue tunes that sound like they were born to be Kentucky Fried Chicken commercials. Bruce puts a Guthrie-esque yowl into "Into the Fire": At its worst, it's a very good Bruce Cockburn song.
"Countin' On A Miracle," about a man whose lost his wife and recites a litany of what she left behind would be more powerful if Bruce could've avoided the Sleeping Beauty metaphor. But that's why Bruce reaches millions: He dares go for the broad, obvious stroke.
I find "World's Apart" to be intriguing, if a little ham-handed, with Asif Ali Khan's group embodying the beneath-it-all-we're-all-brothers message. But I'm delighted to hear Soozie Tyrell, on whom I've had a crush since I was five years old...I mean, 35 years old...sweep those violin strings.
The two great songs are "Empty Sky" and "Nothing Man." "Empty Sky" seems the perfect dull-pain song for our relentlessly stagnant, humid, arid summer. "Nothing Man" may be cryptic, but I've got a read on it: The narrator is a dead guy. "I never thought I'd live to read about it in my hometown paper" throws you off track. How his brave young life was "forever changed in a cloud of pink vapor" tells me that this guy didn't make it. "Around here, everybody acts like nothing's changed," he observes. I'm no expert on the afterlife, and my higher power can't help me on this one. I can only say that what "The Rising" has done is made me think of the rest of the summer as nothing more than a place holder, time suspended, as we wait for the ball to drop at midnight on Sept. 10, 2002. Happy New Fear.
(c) copyright 2002 by Wayne Robins, all rights reserved. Connect: firstname.lastname@example.org