On Bruce Springsteen's newest album, Wrecking Ball, the Boss addresses "Big Picture themes about America," says Randall Roberts at the Los Angeles Times: "War, the economy, provincialism, and revolution." These are classically Springsteen-esque touchstones — the sort of political rallying cries featured prominently on Born in the USA., Darkness on the Edge of Town, and Nebraska, albums that gave the rocker his reputation as the voice of blue-collar America. But packed with protest songs and Occupy Wall Street-ready anthems, does the blatantly politicized Wrecking Ball go overboard?
This is the Boss at his best: Wrecking Ball isn't just one of the finest, most resonant albums of Springsteen's already-impressive career, says Andy Gill at the U.K.'s Independent. It may actually be the "most potent album so far this century." Unlike the "gritty romanticism" that defined rally records like Born in the USA a quarter-century ago, Wrecking Ball "seethes with a sense of betrayal." On "We Take Care of Our Own," Springsteen asks, "Where's the promise from sea to shining sea?" "Easy Money" and "Jack of All Trades" brutally take on Wall Street fat cats. Politically, there "won't be a harder, more challenging release all year."
"Album: Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball"
Huh? This album is too preachy and simplistic: Some of Wrecking Ball's themes and lyrics "border on self-parody," says Roberts. On "Jack of All Trades," Springsteen loudly champions the blue-collar man while making a simplistic point about "bankers who grow fat." And in other cases, the Boss just sounds lazy. On the track "Easy Money," he reverts to the tired image a woman in a red dress, and the song is marred even more by lame, predictable "honey"-"money"-"sunny" rhyming schemes. Springsteen even "rhymes 'hat' with 'cat.'" Ugh.
"Album review: Bruce Springsteen's Wrecking Ball"
But it has strong moments: Wrecking Ball is "sincere, ambitious, and angry," says Jon Pareles at The New York Times. That leads to "mixed outcomes." The song "We Take Care of Our Own" is almost patronizing in its insistent flag-waving, while other tracks, like "Death to My Hometown" and "We Are Alive," are genuinely rousing and less overly-earnest. Throw in the fantastic title song "Wrecking Ball," and you've got a solid, relevant record — albeit one that leans on the crutches of archetypes and cliches.
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