While politicians from Ronald Reagan to John Kerry to Chris Christie and Barack Obama have tried to claim him, I wouldn¹t be playing any songs from Bruce Springsteen's new album, “Wrecking Ball,” at this year's presidential campaign rallies. Once again, Bruce has turned his creative high-beams on the darkness that has crept from the edge of town right to the central square. When we are most adrift, he helps us understand what is happening, and it makes for great, if uncomfortable, listening.
Not since “The Rising,” perhaps the best creative expression of Sept. 11 (along with the novel “Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close”), has the Boss spoken to us so personally. Bruce returns to themes he has touched on many times — in “Tom Joad” and “Nebraska” — of the hollowing-out of the working class and middle class by the guys in the mansions on the hill.
Springsteen’s politics are radical by today's standards, but they come out of a Judeo-Christian tradition of caring for and having faith in one another. “Where is the love that has not forsaken me?” Springsteen asks on this album. Bruce's class warfare goes back perhaps to the Bible but certainly to older songs like “My Hometown” and “Youngstown.”
But in the older songs, Bruce just stopped short of assigning blame. Now the anger has intensified. “The banker man grows fatter. The working man thin. It's all happened before and it'll happen again, "he sings on his new album.
Where once the working man was content to complain in “Youngstown,” “Now sir, you tell me the world's changed. Once I made you rich enough . . . rich enough to forget my name,” Springsteen now says: “I'd find the bastards and shoot ’em all on sight.” When he wrote that intemperate lyric, maybe he had just read the statistic that one wealthy family in America, the Waltons, has more money than 150 million Americans combined.
Once our greatest artists helped us understand our past, present and future. Now many of them create for themselves, the critics or collectors. Bruce is unique: a commercially successful artist who is still searching for the truth. Turn it up.