Tuesday, August 07, 2012
To Set Our Souls Free, RRC 229
ROCK & RAP CONFIDENTIAL
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You might wonder, for good reason, why we are writing about Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball five months after its release. Some of the reasons have been personal. But there are better reasons why we’re speaking up now, and speaking in the way that we are. Part of it is that we both like to listen slow, and listen frequently. Too much music writing now seems hasty and undigested, and that takes a toll. (Deadline perceptions are fine if there’s nothing important in the details, vastly inadequate if there is.) More important was our desire to hold off until we’d heard a larger dialogue: Just what would the world make of this record and what would we have to add to that conversation? But that dialogue has been slow in coming. Most of what was written and said about the album missed the overriding sense we have that this record speaks directly to the Arundathi Roy/Grace Lee Boggs maxim: “A new world is possible. A new world is coming. A new world is already here.”
Because we listen both as long-term Springsteen fans and as activists, that’s what we heard here from early on. It’s a big part of what makes Wrecking Ball something different, especially in the way these songs interact with the dialogue about the movements for social change currently taking shape in our society. This album doesn’t sound like anything else he has done, and its call stands apart, both musically and lyrically. It calls for us not only to react, emotionally, psychologically, even spiritually, but also to act, to not just stand but fight “shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart,” the last words sung on the record.
Such a call requires—demands—a response in kind: detailed, direct and the result of lots of interplay between our own ideas and those of others. So we’ve taken our time and as much space as we needed to use. We hope this is part of a beginning.
TO SET OUR SOULS FREE….Dave Marsh and Danny Alexander write: Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball opens with an alarm, with air raid sirens blaring and tribal drums kicking. The singer, recognizing the enormity of what he’s dealing with, begins in quiet caution. He knocks on the palace door; he desperately seeks a map to bring him home; he stumbles over once-kind neighbors turned callous to his suffering and their own. Like the man in “Rank Stranger,” the Stanley Brothers song that influences so many rock dystopias, the singer can’t believe the devastation he’s seeing, not in the streets but in the faces, the gestures, the way people are standing and moving: “Where’s the eyes, the eyes with the will to see…Where’s the work that will set my hands, my soul free…Where’s the promise from sea to shining sea?” There’s one thing he needs to make sure of: He chants it obsessively, as if himself amazed that he still fully believes it, even against all this evidence that it can’t be true: “We take care of our own, we take care of our own / Wherever this flag’s flown, we take care of our own.”
Trying to figure out how to realize that promise occupies the bulk of this album, the most complete narrative work Bruce Springsteen has created since [don’t get stuck in the middle of a sentence: click here to read more].