Reviewing “The Boss” is a more-than-daunting task. Bruce Springsteen has been releasing records consistently for more than 40 years at this point, and since the early 1970s, they have, for the most part, been significant.
“Wrecking Ball,” the latest release from Springsteen and his E Street Band, does not capture the blue-collar grandiosity of the iconic albums “Born to Run” or “Born in the U.S.A.,” but it certainly maintains the major motif of his music: day-to-day, “American” life. As such, “Wrecking Ball” is successful in delivering that classic Springsteen message.
There’s a strong, anthemic character to many of the songs on “Wrecking Ball.” This, of course, will come as no surprise to anyone who has heard a Springsteen record before. Take the album’s opener, “We Take Care of Our Own,” for instance. This ode to the people of our homeland sounds like a sort of orchestral march, not unlike “Thunder Road” or the song “Born in the U.S.A.”
There are also the quieter, yet just as powerful, tunes like the title track, which begins solemnly and then drops into a full-band swing, horns and all. “Jack of All Trades” follows suit, a painful testament to the status of the modern working class, dominated by a reserved piano melody.
Clearly Springsteen’s knack for a beefed-up sound and his sentimental, stadium-friendly sensibility has not diminished, but “Wrecking Ball” has some low, albeit interesting, moments when Springsteen’s songwriting seems to make an attempt with other styles or genres. The just-in-time-for-St. Patrick’s Day tune “Death to My Hometown” has an Irish tin-whistle carrying the chorus melody with a light banjo strum backing Springsteen’s gruff “They brought death to my hometown, boys.” I’m pretty sure Springsteen’s going for an Irish accent on this one, too. It just comes off as tacky.
There’s also the uplifting “Rocky Ground,” which ought to receive credit for its message, but there’s this pseudo-rap in the last minutes of the song, which unfortunately throws off the structure of the tune for the worse.
Given “Wrecking Ball’s” faults, Springsteen has still proven himself capable of evoking a sense of empowerment and reflection in his listeners. “Wrecking Ball” has barely deterred this quality.