Bruce Springsteen has always been the voice of the losers. The spiritual guide of those wandering souls in search of their lucky star, in a hostile world that humiliates them daily for a few bucks. Like the good preacher that he is, generally he has framed his discourse within the socio-political context that was thrashing his fellow countrymen. Whether he was narrating the less pleasant side of the American Dream, in the midst of the effervescence of the Reagan era on “Nebraska” (1982), encouraging his people to overcome the disaster of September 11th in “The Rising” (2002) or campaigning in favour of Obama in the imperfect “Working On A Dream” (2009) - Springsteen has committed himself to the issues that keep him awake at night, without fearing the criticism he might earn himself along the way. A key example of this is “American Skin (41 Shots)”, the song he sang in 1999 at Madison Square Garden, to denounce the murder of immigrant Amadou Diallo at the hands of New York police. His discography is full of proper names - characters embroidered with fiction, who could perfectly easily share our own surnames. For this reason, we shouldn’t be surprised that in the face of the extraordinary economic depression that is pounding half of the world, he has decided to aim his musical bullets at what is considered the devil personified in these uncertain times: Wall Street.
The Boss could have faced up to the enemy on “Wrecking Ball” in many ways, but in the end he has decided to bring together the voices of other troubadours, from genres prone to protest songs, as he has done on previous occasions. Beyond “We Take Care Of Our Own” - or the title song, which he performed for the first time in the Giants Stadium in 2009 - there is little (not to say no) chance for the overwhelming machinery of the E Street Band to sparkle. The ferocity of rock has given way to the communion of Irish folklore (“Shackled And Drawn”) and his own answer to Woody Guthrie or his beloved Pete Seeger, after the tribute he paid to him in 2006 with “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions” (“Easy Money”). Elsewhere, Johnny Cash-style bar-room condemnation (“We Are Alive”), and ornamental gospel choruses act as an accompaniment to this pamphlet for social resistance. This is why his name, and not that of the E Street Band, appears in large letters on the cover of the album.
If we check our archives, it was said that “Wrecking Ball” would contain a series of elements that were new to him. But have no fear: beyond the insignificant rap that Michelle Moore does in “Rocky Ground”, the alarm bells sounded really turned out to be much ado about nothing. Nevertheless, Ron Aniello’s decision to pervade some of the songs with beat boxes (which happens, for example, in “This Depression”, as it previously occurred on “Missing”, one of the 90s oddities to be found in the “The Essential” compilation) or to invite Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine to play the guitar on the fanfare waltz entitled “Jack Of All Trades”, makes us wonder why Springsteen consciously fails to take advantage of the talent within the legendary E Street Band. Beasts like the satisfying Max Weinberg or Nils Lofgren seem to appear in the credits from a strictly testimonial sense.
The absence of Clarence Clemons is also more than notable. The “Big Man” (apart from on “Wrecking Ball”) re-appears posthumously in the already-known “Land Of Hope And Dreams”. But something is wrong when the studio version of the song doesn’t manage to hold a candle to the amazing live performances that came out in 1999, for his reconciliation tour with the E Street Band. This is precisely the flaw in the album. Springsteen holds his own and continues to show that he has things left to tell us (even after sixteen LPs), however the emotion - the hair standing on end, the trademark epic - is lacking. Timeless anthems are diluted by easy resources that cannot live up to the immaculate jewels of his career. Live, an area where very few (if not to say no-one) can hold a candle to him, we’ll have a wonderful opportunity to see how deep these new songs can really go.