Today on Blogcritics
Home » Music » Reviews music » Music Review: Bruce Springsteen – Darkness On The Edge Of Town

Music Review: Bruce Springsteen – Darkness On The Edge Of Town

Please Share...Print this pageTweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Pin on Pinterest0Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

Born To Run made Bruce Springsteen a star, yet nearly three years would pass before his next release, Darkness On The Edge Of Town.

It is interesting to reflect upon the scope of Springsteen's back catalogue, noting the variations in his musical vision as well as how he maintained his artistic integrity and expanded his commercial appeal. His early releases ranged from the sweeping storytelling and improvisations of The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle to the energetic and epic grandeur of Born To Run to the darker lyrics and textures of his fourth album, Darkness On The Edge Of Town.

For this work, Springsteen now turned his attention to the underbelly of ordinary life, in part evoking how the passage of time is less romantic than realistic and, though it's a fate often resisted, it's something one ultimately must face. Musically and lyrically, he exhibited sophistication and an increasing ability to convey his songs in mature and moving ways. In a genuine sense, this is Springsteen emerging from adolescence into adulthood.

The sessions for Darkness On The Edge Of Town produced a plethora of songs that Springsteen didn't release at the time, some of which were covered by other artists and, perhaps ironically, garnered more Top 40 success than the singles to come from his own album. Tracks such as “This Little Girl” by Gary U.S. Bonds, “Rendezvous” by The Greg Kihn Band and “Fire” by the Pointer Sisters served Springsteen well, though, as their eminence increased his popularity and esteem as a songwriter.

“Something In The Night” features a beautiful and sensitive piano on this narrative of chasing elusive dreams. “Racing In The Street” portrays a refusal to grow up and the loss of relationships. “Streets Of Fire” is an exhausted lament.

The song that most resonated with me at the time of this album's 1978 release was “Factory.” I spent a summer working in a toy factory in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, making plastic pumpkins for Halloween and, by the end of the first week, I hated having to get up in the morning. Many people, including myself at this time, perceived Springsteen as writing about defeat, giving up, and the dreariness of everyday life.

The only songs that are even remotely hopeful here are “The Promised Land” — in which there are hints of faith despite the realities of life — and the title song, which at least suggests that one can go down fighting.

Despite the sobering lyrical content, Darkness On The Edge Of Town is pure, energetic rock ‘n’ roll and one of the best works that Springsteen would create. A masterpiece of music resonating with brilliant textures and poetry, it makes for a powerful and emotional rendering of a road less traveled.   

Powered by

About David Bowling

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    I just don’t really get Springsteen. His music is conservative mainstream rock of little individual character and, except for people of a certain age, really quite dull. Must be an American thing I guess.

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    it’s ok. you don’t get it. some don’t. i never got, like, The Smiths…for example.

    and little distinction? if you take the E St. Band circa Born to Run and Darkness, they had a unique sound, especially on the former record.

    and i hate to tell you but the Bruce following in europe is far more rabid than it is over here.

  • Wild Billy

    “I just don’t really get Springsteen. His music is conservative mainstream rock of little individual character and, except for people of a certain age, really quite dull. Must be an American thing I guess.”

    “conservative mainstream rock”

    Well, it’s not. Check this out:
    For you – live at Hammersmith Odeon, 1975 Prove It All Night Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ. 19-9-1978 Drive all night – Live Sweden 5 july 2008

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    What I mean is I don’t get BS (lol) now. Born To Run had a certain flair to it 33 years ago and he’s been trading on it ever since. That’s a third of a fucking century ago.

    Sure, the E Street Band had an identifiable, though not really unique, sound back in the day, but music has moved on a long way since then.

    I’ve not seen any signs of a rabid European following for BS. What do you base that on? Maybe you need a Zimmer frame to enjoy this retro stuff! :-)

    I’m no fan of The Smiths either, as it happens. Their best song was “Hand in Glove” – and Sandie Shaw did a better version of it than they did. Why did you bring them in particular up? It doesn’t seem relevant to my point.

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    i just brought up the Smiths as a band who were very popular in europe but not as much over here…and i “didn’t get” them. i even have a record or two.

    the rabid european following is evident in the touring he does over there. reports from the show are ecstatic.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Wild Billy, I think the videos you linked to prove my point not yours.

    Mark, I didn’t say BS isn’t popular and don’t see how his popularity invalidates my point that he is just another mainstream rock artist. I would imagine BS is more popular in Europe than The Smiths but so what? Still not relevant to my point.

    As a large part of your personal musical taste is rooted so strongly in the long gone 70s, I’m not surprised to see you sticking up for him/then.

  • Wild Billy

    “I’ve not seen any signs of a rabid European following for BS. What do you base that on?”

    Well, I saw Bruce on Camp Nou in Barcelona this summer. 2 nights x 80.000 sold out in 2 hours.

    So, heres a clip, enjoy! Badlands – Camp Nou (Barcelona) July 20, 2008

    Also saw him in Gotenburg, heres a clip of that. The whole town had the Bruce fewer, not possibel to go anywhere without a Bruce song playing:

    Bruce Springsteen – Out in the Street Gothenburg Sweden 2008

  • Wild Billy

    “Wild Billy, I think the videos you linked to prove my point not yours.”

    Sorry, i missunderstood a bit. But you are still dead wrong.

    How is this main stream: Bruce Springsteen – Long Walk Home – When you understand the lyrics you will understand that this is far from main stream (republican or democrat).

    Bruce Springsteen – My City of Ruins (WTC Benefit) This 20 levels above main stream!

    Open All Night – With The Seeger Sessions Band Milan, 12th May 2006
    (skip the opatti bit in the start :-)

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    WB – many old school rockers tour profitably and perform to big crowds. The masters of that are probably the Rolling Stones.

    There is a huge difference between those, mostly older, people who go to see the acts they remember from their youth and artists who are actually making new contemporary music.

    PS, please don’t post raw links as I have to keep tidying them up for you. If you don’t know how, here’s a simple explanation of how to format a link

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    As a large part of your personal musical taste is rooted so strongly in the long gone 70s, I’m not surprised to see you sticking up for him/then.

    we’ve had this “discussion” before. we’re done.

  • Wild Billy

    “actually making new contemporary music.”

    Take a look at what Springsteen has done since Ghost Of Tom Joad in 96.

    He has songs like:

    YoungsTown, Ghost Of Tom Joad, Dry Ligtning, Streets Of Philadelphia, American Skin, Land of Hope And Dream, The Rising, Waiting On A Sunny Day, Lonsome Day, Empty Sky, Your Missing, My City Of Ruins, Devils & Dust, Long time comming, How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live, American Land, Radio Nowhere, Long Walk Home, Magic and Girls In Their Summer Cloths.

    Give me one contemporary artist/band with this many great songs over some many different genres, with such intent and substance.

    And, yes I will agree with you that there are bands that are more innovative than Springsteen. But that doesn’t mean that being innovative is the most important criteria in making good music, at least not for me.

  • Wild Billy

    I forgot to answer this one.

    “I’ve not seen any signs of a rabid European following for BS”

    Didn’t my links prove you wrong on that one? And by the way there is just as many youngsters as oldies on Springsteen concerts in Europe.

    In the U.S I wouldn’t know.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Mark, I don’t mean to offend you, but perhaps you should have a think about what I said. I don’t read all your musical writing but a large part of the music you write about IS rooted in the 70s. Shall I start posting “Oh, 70s!” every time I see that?

    WB, so basically you agree with me, “there are bands that are more innovative than Springsteen”.

    And no, your links proved that it is possible for bands to tour successfully based on their 30 or 40 year old heritage. Which is not news.

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    a large part of the music you write about IS rooted in the 70s.

    and an even larger part isn’t.

    seriously though, why does it matter? it doesn’t seem to bother you when i write about a band from that era that you like (recent example: The Who – Live at Leeds).

    sure, friday morning listen’s in particular have music from that era because that’s when i started soaking it all in. it’s not like i have a huge reverence for “The 70’s”….i mean, you think i sit around every night listening to Abraxas, with my blacklight posters and stuff? 😉

  • Wild Billy

    “And no, your links proved that it is possible for bands to tour successfully based on their 30 or 40 year old heritage. Which is not news.”

    Uh, you said: “I’ve not seen any signs of a rabid European following for BS” on that one you are proven wrong.

    What is different between Springsteen & Stones (ex) is that he is still relevant, and attracts new crowds from musical genres and from a younger audience.

    So, Bruce, at least in Europe, is touring with just as much his latest 10 years work as much as his records from the 70`s and the 80`s.

    There are many “has been acts” that comes to Europe, but non of them sells tickets as fast as Springsteen. In so many consecutive years, in so many different styles. He wouldn’t be able to do so if he was not relevant and still put out music that speaks to the listeners.

    So you need to start listening. Because I don’t think you do. All you hear is what you think he sounds like.

    And if you are right, how could both Seeger Session and Magic be rated among the best album of 06 and 07 at an average critic`s list. And if he is just a “has been” how could Rolling Stones rate Springsteen & E-Street band as best live act of 2008 when half the 25-30 songs set list is songs that are made AFTER 2000?

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    p.s. i was shocked to discover that my local grocery store actually carries blacklights.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    I just find myself increasingly troubled by how dated and conservative a lot of music is these days. There was a lot of great music made in the 70s but music has actually moved on a great deal since then.

    “Live At Leeds” is a classic moment in rock history but it’s just not really going to find it’s way to the top of my playlist, even though I have the original vinyl album complete with all the groovy inserts and stuff.

    If I was feeling nostalgic, I’d probably focus on the 60s or 80s rather than the 70s or those particularly disappointing 90s years.

    I find a lot of great new music through sites like Jango and just prefer to look forwards than back.

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    by how dated and conservative a lot of music is these days.

    the mainstream music landscape is very bizarre these days. almost frozen in the headlights, so to speak.

    i honestly don’t care where something comes from. hek, after listening to a few hours of cats-on-piano improv, a little “normalcy” doesn’t hurt.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    There is more creativity in a simple beat on a Missy Elliott tune, a Basement Jaxx song or a Dizzee Rascal rap than most rock music these days – or past days. Rock has moved from the cutting edge to the old people’s home.

  • Wild Billy

    Another thing, Mark Saleski

    If you are looking for the best music site, the name is Spotify. Actuelly it`s not a site, it more like iTunes or Mediamonky online the music libaty is not on your computer, the Spotify libary will have 95% av all music ever published in 4-6 weeks. Spotify is still in Beta. :-)

    I have used it for a week now, and it is just fantastic. It`s the best thing since MP3.

    You should check it out.

    Musically – Hands on with Spotify

    http://www.Spotify.com

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Christopher here is basically displaying his own philosophical prejudices rather than any idea of appreciating actual music. If he could apply the words “conservative” or “mainstream,” then that pretty much discredits the music – without even really listening to it. Obviously no conservative or mainstream music is creative or worthy of the attention of a sophisticate such as Mr Rose.

    But if you can’t see why Darkness is highly regarded, then you’re just not getting it. He’s not really even listening. This is a great album with some awesome songs. Leave aside the silly ideological baggage – and on the other side any of the cult of Springsteen crapola that I certainly don’t share – and you’ve still got a slew of classic songs. If you can’t see the appeal of “Prove It All Night,” then you just don’t get popular music.

    Rose always refers to supposed creativity or innovation, but what’s so amazingly frickin’ creative about a Missy Elliott beat? She’s got a couple of pretty good songs, but her whole catalog isn’t the actual musical and songwriting equal of “Candy’s Room.”

    He seems to value any little bit of electronic gimmickry as more artistically valuable than actual songs. But by those kind of standards, David Seville’s “Witch Doctor” would be a greater piece of art than “Hey Jude.”

    Rose foolishness aside, nobody here has mentioned the greatest and most classic song on the record – “Adam Raised a Cain.” It doesn’t even vaguely resemble any dynamic in my own life, so it’s not even some special personal resonance. It’s just a great tune and an awesome performance. Plus, that opening guitar solo is one of the best on any Springsteen record.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Thanks for displaying your aged prejudice Barger. (I would have called you Al, but you seem to like the use of surnames when you’re whining).

    I don’t think describing Springsteen’s music as conservative or mainstream is in anyway wrong. Are you willing to try and make a case for it being progressive or modern music?

    Of course, you can’t do that for two reasons. One is that it simply isn’t and the other is that you don’t seem to like much contemporary musical genres at all.

    I wouldn’t expect you to like Missy Elliott, Barger, it is way too progressive for your predictable and retrospective taste, but I would hope that someone like Mark would be able to see the truly radical use of sound and music that she and her producer create.

    Springsteen may have written some pretty decent rock songs many years ago but rock itself, rather like you, is showing its age. There was far more exciting music going on in the comparatively poor 70s than Springsteen made.

    Personally, I’ll put my faith in the future, not the past, but you live on in your nostalgia tinted world mate.

  • Wild Billy

    Al Barger:

    Darkness is one of the true masterpieces of rock history. You have songs like Racing In The Streets, which is actually NOT really about racing in the streets, but Mr. Rose is`isn’t even close to understand what that would mean, but here’s a hint:

    “Some guys they just give up living
    And start dying little by little, piece by piece”

    and

    “When I come home the house is dark
    She sighs “Baby did you make it all right”
    She sits on the porch of her daddy’s house
    But all her pretty dreams are torn
    She stares off alone into the night
    With the eyes of one who hates for just being born
    For all the shut down strangers and hot rod angels
    Rumbling through this promised land
    Tonight my baby and me we’re gonna ride to the sea
    And wash these sins off our hands”

    Hearing this song live, with the professor really killing on the out, well one of my absolute highlights this summer.

    Then you have Badlands, as a critic wrote after Gothenburg 2.nd this is not a song “it`s an earth quake” . If you cant relate to words like this, well you are either stone cold, really not intact with your own feelings or just on some sort of a 24h happy drug.

    Lights out tonight
    trouble in the heartland
    Got a head-on collision
    smashin’ in my guts, man
    I’m caught in a cross fire
    that I don’t understand
    But there’s one thing I know for sure girl
    I don’t give a damn
    For the same old played out scenes
    I don’t give a damn
    For just the in betweens
    Honey, I want the heart, I want the soul
    I want control right now

    Shit, I could go on like this with every song on this album. Adam, Promised land, Candy, Darkness on the edge..

    If there is a point to be made on the Darkness album on is that the album version don’t capture the raw intensity Bruce put into the songs at the time. All the “fab five” bootlegs is mandatory must have`s for any person remotely interested in the true essence of rock.

    [Edited]

    Note – I have always wondered why he didn’t include that wonderful intro to Prove It on the album? Did he come up with it after the release of the album? and why did he stop playing one of the best intro`s to any song after that tour?

  • Wild Billy

    Here you go Mr. Rose, something real innovative.

    All sounds are sample from cheese, biscuit and vocals. Enjoy!
    Ost & Kjex – Boston Food Strangler

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Actually those lyrics read as pretty banal to me but whatever floats your boat Billy. Of course I would take your advice a bit more seriously if you weren’t so gullible as take Ost & Kjex so literally.

    And what does the latter have to do with Springsteen?

  • Wild Billy

    Banal – oh, well :-) you are pretty funny. Dostoevsky and Ibsen are of course banal as well. I think you would prefer “Is it worth it, let me work it I put my thing down, flip it and reverse it” any day to something that actually would make you take at your own hopes and fairs.

    Ost&kjex is to be taken literally, at least their debut “Some, But Not All Cheese Comes From The Moon” was made upon the dogma of only samples from Cheese, biscuit and vocal. I don’t think they have moved away from that.

    The relevance? just thought it would be nice for you to have something real innovative to listen to while reading these banal words from this main stream conservative rocker.

    Put on the track`s from the Passaic, listen how well the music fits the words, how Bruce` pour out his heart into every word, words about things that matters.

    The bootleg is a nice couple of notches better than the album in mind, much more passion and intensity. Listen to Prove it, Streets of fire, Kitty’s Back and.. yeah pretty much anything on there..

    I hope you get it one day. It would be good for you.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Dostoevsky and Ibsen are pretty boring too.

    I think you’ll find that the cheesy ones did that gimmick only on the one song. They are clearly using more conventional sound sources on the track you linked to. Plus which, using non-traditional sound sources to make music has been done many times before, so it isn’t particularly innovative.

    It’s characteristic of BS fans to assume that other people don’t get the special nature of his work. NEWSFLASH – we get it, and we’re not impressed. Superficial lyrics, predictable music, what’s to like?

    I hope you get that one day, it will be good for you…

  • Wild Billy

    “Dostoevsky and Ibsen are pretty boring too”

    Oh, yeah that’s right. Ibsen and Dostoevsky are still current after ca 150 years because they are boring. sure that must be it.

    And yes Springsteen where innovative in the 70`s.

    I just think your critic of Springsteen is not hitting the target, that’s all.

    And I really don’t understand your need for music to be innovative to be great. That really doesn’t make any sense at all.

    Oh well, never mind..”somebody is wrong on the internet, who the bloody hell cares”

    God have mercy on the man
    Who doubts what he’s sure of

  • http://www.foryoubruce.com Laser

    It can be argued that Bruce Springsteen at this point in time is bigger in Europe than he is in the US. By bigger, I mean he draws more Euro fans to his concerts,and those Euro fans are more fervent. As far as a Darkness is concerned I believe it is Bruce’s definitive work, and he backed it up with a definitive tour. From 1975-2008 I have listened and watched Springsteen be a relevant artist to the society of the time, and still be true to his own creative,social and political beliefs. But at no time did I ever feel that Bruce was fighting more for his career and his life when he unleashed Badlands and the other songs of darkness on an unsuspecting fan base. I am currently researching this album and tour for my next project, and hope to capture what this work truly meant to me and thousands of his fans.

  • Rich

    Maybe you guys could take this to email.

  • JC Mosquito

    Here we go again – but that’s OK – it needs to be said periodically. The problem here is that Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, Zeppelin, etc., and many groups from the 70s based their music on a rock format as opposed to a pop format. Since rock tends to connect itself to prior versions of itself – carry the tradition so to speak – it can sound limited and rehashed to the casual listener. Pop however thrives on the current and unique, which can come across as temporary and gimmicky to the non fan. Of course both genres cross over into each other, but I’m talking broad generalities here. And it seems that since the late 70s there haven’t been as many artists that have become hugely successful coming from the rock field as the pop field or the rap/hip hop field – that’s why rock fans tend to reference older bands a lot.

    So it’s OK to not get Springsteen or Madonna – just as long as you realize that it’s your own preferences and/or limitations that are affecting your perception, and not the quality of the artist.

    Just my two cents’ worth.

  • Wild Billy

    “I think you’ll find that the cheesy ones did that gimmick only on the one song.”

    Okay, I know we are going into obscurity here and that it has nothing to do with the Darkness review, but:

    “…spent their lifesavings on a big pile of cheese and biscuits, some studio equipment and locked themselves away for about two years. Creating what would become, “Some But Not All Cheese Comes From the Moon”. Their debut album based solely on sounds from yes : cheese & biscuits.
    Ost & Kjex Biography @ MySpace


    JC Mosquito – Good comment.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Skeeter, that’s kind of my point. Carrying on in a generalised way and fully aware that there are some bands that contradict my point, Rock essentially drew on the blues and then kicked it into another dimension. However, that was a long time ago and comparatively not much has happened in the last fifteen or twenty years on that front in terms of new ideas.

    That’s precisely what is pissing me off frankly. I’ve always liked both pop and rock (and soul too, but that’s another story), but the music I loved the most, ie rock, has changed from a creative and progressive stance to one of conservatism and tradition. What the fuck happened, apart from us all getting older?

    Anybody who loves great music, rather than simply being a rock fan, can’t fail to have noticed that there is a lot of innovative, creative and exciting music around these days but rock has kind of been left behind.

    Personally, as a one time Mod and lifelong science fiction fan, both of which were/are forward looking culturally, I can’t betray that progressive stance, even if that means me having to “betray” my once solid commitment to rock. Shit happens.

    Billy, you’ve already shown yourself to be a bit linear but come on, do you really believe that PR bullshit? Unusually for the normally somewhat dour Norwegians, these guys have a sense of humour and you are buying into their joke!

  • Michael

    What I’ve never understood about the Christopher’s of the world is this – for someone who doesn’t get it (which is perfectly fine), why spend so much of your time trying to convince others their opinions are wrong (on a page where your view is singular)? Move on. I may not like the Jonas Brothers, but I have zero desire to read a glowing review and then shut everyone down by referencing Stephin Merritt, Amon Tobin or Kayne – just to make myself sound more educated. They like it; I don’t. So? Agree to disagree.

    I like Springsteen. His Muse burned brightest, obviously, when he was younger – but he’s written some great stuff over the years. “Nebraska” was a huge influence on the Indie crowd (loved “Highway Patrolman”). While I wasn’t thrilled with “Magic” overall, songs like “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” and “You’ll Be Comin’ Down” were terrific. When people say Bruce is “still relevant” (my dear, misguided Christopher), they don’t mean to say he has changed with the times. He’s not Beck. He’s not Murs or People Under the Stairs. Yes, he’s old. Yes, he’s from the 70’s. What they mean, though, is that he still continues to write good music and spends a lot of time in concert playing those songs – not just regurgitating the “greatest hits”. He’s still talked about in the media. His tours are still new and refreshing (example. the solo “Devils and Dust” tour was incredibly creative). I thought the Seeger Sessions tour was HIGHLY inventive – how he took his back catalog and delivered fun, new versions of each of the songs (in different styles – from Dixieland to Ska). He hasn’t been “trading in” on his BTR days; he still writes a lot of wonderful stuff, but no … he’s not, nor will he ever be … a trendsetter. Who is? Dylan? Young? Sorry… no. Teaming with Daniel Lanois or Brian Eno isn’t a “new direction”.

    I said I like Springsteen and I do – but I tend to listen to newer bands and genres that dabble in different sounds. I like hearing something new. Whether a “Paper Planes” that mixes some old Clash music with a newer beat or a band that mines old Joy Division, but then throws in some Dub to shake things up. I like discovering new talent. We can all hear Christopher, here, say “ah HA.. he admits that Springsteen isn’t…”. Hush. Bruce is Bruce. He writes Bruce songs and dabbles in new styles here and there, but he’s never going to shock the establishment as he did with BTR. The only reason he did so back then was because we hadn’t HEARD “Bruce” before. As much as I love new music, where is Solvent going to be in 30 years? Andrew Bird? Tiesto? IF they’re around, chances are they’ll be playing the same STYLE of music that they’re known for and .. that’s fine. Their relevance will be measured by the quality of those songs, by whether or not people still talk about them and what influence, if any, they have on their peers.

    Christopher… go away and haunt Miley fans.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    What I’ve never understood about the Michael’s of this world is how they can surf into a website and make their first comment without ever considering the notion that Skeeter, Mark and even Al B all know each other, albeit online, and were at least trying to have a conversation. You do know what that is don’t you Michael? Or is it your style to turn up, dump your load and then move on again, having contributed nothing and understood less?

    I think I’m making a valid observation about a culture I know a fair bit about and have lived the lifestyle of for many years. I don’t understand how people who liked music that was progressive in its day but has now been left behind somewhat by new ideas and generations can keep raving on about it in the same kind of terminology as back in the day. It’s a bit like insisting that a Model A Ford is a great car…

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Christopher, I don’t care about you labeling an artist “conservative” or “progressive.” That’s just overarching ideological bullshit with little relationship to actual music.

    The question is, is the music GOOD? That mostly starts with, is there a real song under it? Is it well written, with hooks and dynamics and melodic development? Is there some emotional throw weight? There most assuredly are highly memorable songs under your better (mostly early) Springsteen.

    There’s very minimal in the way of real songwriting under a lot of gimmicky rap and pop stuff. Who’s going to be covering any of those Missy Elliot “songs” now or ever? I’ve got a couple of Missy Elliot songs that I like well enough, and put them in a couple of mix discs for the car. She’s got a couple of decent disposable pop novelties, much like David Seville. I put the “Witch Doctor” in the mix now and again for shits and giggles as well. But I wouldn’t mistake either for substantive or meaningful art.

    I mock your aging grasp for continued coolness, cause that ain’t cool. I’m perfectly willing to listen to new artists and sounds, and dig some of the new as it hits my ear. But I’m not going to talk myself into thinking that some brand new mediocrity is great just to prove that I’m hip and down with the kids. If they want to be hip, kids need to find some of the stuff that I dig and get down with ol’ Al.

    Great music is timeless. What you think is “progressive” today might look retro to you in a couple of decades. Whatever. But Jimmie Rodgers and Fats Waller and Duke and Mozart and Beethoven are great and classic, and far more worthy of anyone’s attention than your supposedly “progressive” flavor of the moment.

    Calling Springsteen records from 30 years ago “old” is much more a statement of the boring limitations of your little worldview than any statement about any broader reality. In the bigger picture, anything that’s been recorded in my lifetime is quite new. The world didn’t begin when me or you came out of Mommy.

    Also, the invocation of automobile technology as a comparison to music is utterly bogus. Cars are technology and music is art. Any new car is obviously and objectively far superior to a Model A. That’s a question of technology, and the new is better. They drive faster, have better safety features, all kinds of things.

    But music is art, and a statement of the human soul – which weren’t invented in the last 100 years or so. Missy Elliot surely has vastly superior technology at her disposal, but never in this lifetime will she make anything as good as Billie Holiday did decades before Missy, Christopher or Al was born.

  • Will Brennan

    Sprinsteen’s obviously a major artist and isn’t mainstream like Bon Jovi is mainstream. I like some of Bon Jovi’s stuff. But Springsteen goes deeper, obvously. He’s hardly conservative though. Ronnie Reagan tried to usurp “Born in the USA” and Springsteen told him “hands-off.” And he just did a huge concert for Obama. What Sprinsteen is is a voice for the working man, which for me, the more he got into that persona, the less authentic he felt. Bruce has been playing in bands since he was 17. He never worked in a factory or went to war or drove a truck. Which isn’t to say that an artist can’t empathize, it’s just that I always thought Bruce was more honest when he was singing about tilt-a-whirls and the boardwalk and trying to score a chick out there. he had this oceanside arcade poetry going on and it rang really true, but when he got into the glory days and more”serious” subjects, it lost it’s humor and spring and got kind of ponderous. He’s done brilliant stuff – “Streets of Philadelphia” is bone chilling, “I’m on Fire” is classic. “Pink Caddilac.” But I just wish he was so serious all the time.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Al, your argument is mostly self-serving bollocks that seems mostly designed to show that you still get it. Trust me, you don’t.

    Your criteria for good music are completely arbitrary and based upon some fairly dubious critics theory of art appreciation. Art forms don’t have inherent qualities so music doesn’t remain good just because it once was.

    BS basically has one song that stands out from the rest of his work and I’m sure you know which one I mean. If you go ask a whole load of people to name a song of his, it will almost certainly be that one. Good song it is too, although it, like you, has lost some of its impact with the passing of time.

    I’m not interested in continuing coolness and don’t care overly much what “the kids” think. What I am interested in is that music keeps me interested and BS just doesn’t do it anymore for me. You might still get off on it, but that’s more about you than the music or anything else. Let’s face it, you still think country music is interesting; I think it, to use an Americanism, jumped the shark decades ago, and I know my Bluegrass from my Nashville!

    Great music isn’t timeless, it is inescapably of its time and sometimes that doesn’t always play so well in the future. Your argument is anti life and human nature.

    You think “Jimmie Rodgers and Fats Waller and Duke and Mozart and Beethoven” are timeless but I think they are of their age and it shows. Listening to them can be of passing enjoyment but, right here right now, I’d rather listen to the Antony & The Johnsons CD I just bought on repeat all day than that lot once.

    If I was going to listen to some older music it would be something like the work of Mulatu Astatqe, who is in his 60s at least but still innovating. Contrast that with, say, BB King or the recently late Bo Diddley, with whom I have worked; once great artists who are/were still doing essentially what they have always done. I know which works for me.

    I’m a human and 30 years is a fucking long time in my life, so yes, music from that long ago is old by definition. That’s not to say that all old culture is bad but, just like some people get fat and/or bald as they age and some don’t, some stuff ages better than others.

    I’d like to think that if Billie Holiday was around today, she’d be grooving with Missy, not listening to Springsteen. Do you think the opposite?

    Your rejection of my technology point is equally wrong. Both cars and music are products of human imagination and creativity. Driving a great car can be just as wonderful an experience as hearing great music.

    Of course, listening to great music whilst driving a great car is even better. One of my current favourite driving CDs is the second Arctic Monkeys album which, the slightly ill fitting last track apart, is simply awesome.

    In the end it comes down to what kind of person one is and what matters to you. You want “well written, with hooks and dynamics and melodic development”; I want to hear great new music that builds on the past, not relives it, to be surprised and delighted by the creativity of an artist, and not to be bored.

    The human “soul”, whatever the fuck that is, is certainly not set in stone, but evolves just as we do. Sometimes it is incremental, like shaving a few hundredths of a second off some running or swimming record. Other times it is more like a quantum leap to a new level and not everybody can follow it immediately. Cue mirror, Mr Barger…

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Bon Jovi is mainstream? Where?

    Apart from that, what Will Brennan said.

  • Michael

    Christopher… I’ve posted on a lot of these forums, but never to bash someone else’s view. If I disagree, I move on. You seem to be one of those folks who doesn’t enjoy true conversation (sorry); instead, your opinion is the only one that counts. I could be wrong, of course.

    You said Al’s response was “bollocks” – that he doesn’t get it (“trust me, you don’t”). Again, we can agree to disagree. You bring up some great points. “Arctic Monkeys” is an excellent band; you’re right. I agree that Springsteen isn’t “timeless”, but then… (like you said about Rodgers and Beethoven) I don’t believe anyone truly is “timeless”. You either like the artist/band or you don’t and they will usually sound the same … forever. Even guys like Beck that try to re-invent themselves will always have that “edgy”, “creative” vibe. You probably won’t hear Beck doing “South Pacific” in Latin.

    You’re absolutely right that “taste” comes down to “what kind of person one is and what matters” to them; to that point, I would never argue that Springsteen is a God. I can say that I like him and that I think he’s relevant (keyword .. “I”), but in the end… it’s just my opinion. I’m not right. I’m not wrong. No point, though, in my coming across a glowing Jonas Brothers blog and dissing everyone and their posts. They love the artist; I don’t. Should we end up at a pub and want to discuss what “true relevance” is over a pint of Guinness, I’m in. I won’t force it down their throats, though. I’ll bring some Vampire Weekend for them to listen to, as well.

    It sounds like you have a deep love of music and that you’re open to many different genres. You also seem to be very well-educated. For what it’s worth, I have no idea what the human “soul” is, either – though I have trouble tying my shoes on any given day. Anyway… just my opinion.

  • Michael

    One other point, Christopher.. if a blog was meant to be locked down to a small circle of friends, the blog should be locked. I’ve posted many articles and blogs, responded to numerous others (like this) and you always get someone who’s going to stumble across a great post and want to weigh in. Are you saying that their opinion isn’t valid and they are not worthy of a reply … simply because they don’t know everyone else who has commented? Really? So I can track down every one of your posts on the Web and you will have known every single of those folks? I’m just trying to say … relax. As far as I could tell, this was a positive review of an old Bruce CD and most of these fine folks agreed with the review. You’re right; for all I know… you guys may show up in the same reviews and may have been in agreement 99% of the time. You might be best friends. If that’s the case, I apologize. I certainly don’t mean to stick my head in where it doesn’t belong. I wasn’t “dumping my load”. I’m here, replying to my reply, so I’m obviously up for a little conversation. Anyway.. my two cents.

  • Michael

    And, yes… you are entitled to disagree – very much so. I just question the point of a “trust me, you don’t” argument. With that very statement, you shut down the other person’s viewpoint. You might want to say “I don’t THINK you get it” or “we’re, obviously, not on the same page” – but it usually ends a conversation when the other person goes on the attack. Ugh. I had a flashback of an ex.

  • zingzing

    oi. chris is right–pringsteen IS musically conservative and mainstream. that doesn’t mean those are bad things. in fact, he gives those two things a good name. he’s not a musical innovator. but on his best stuff (born to run, nebraska and born in the usa, in my book,) he’s a phenomenal writer and as great a pop artist as has walked the earth.

    but chris’ little assertion about “music doesn’t remain good just because it once was” may be true, but i wonder if he’s considered the opposite. just because something gets older doesn’t mean it’s left behind. sure, the sex pistols are as earth-shatteringly new these days, but they are still important and they can still shock with their power. even though they were just trying to sound like the past 15 years (in 1976) hadn’t happened.

    springsteen was also aping old styles by this point in his career. his songs were generally getting shorter and tighter, his phil spector love affair was in full swing, he was moving more and more towards guitars and synths instead of pianos… the man is a classic rocker, a point of consensus for all american rock. “if it doesn’t sound like bruce, it’s not rock.” sure, he’s not the greatest thing under the sun, and he can be a tad too familiar, but he’s the best thing a majority of americans can agree on.

    he’s mainstream and he’s a musical conservative, but those things might be his greatest accomplishments.

  • zingzing

    Antony & The Johnsons–talk about classicists! hercules and love affair! at least that sounds like the 70s instead of the 40s. (but i love them both.)

  • zingzing

    “the sex pistols areN’T as earth-shatteringly new…”

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8q7dga-deQ Michael

    Speaking of aping styles, did anyone catch Bruce’s Halloween video (see URL)? I thought it was great. It was kind of a … Muddy Waters meets Tom Waits dealio with a little Gene Vincent throw in at the end for good measure.

  • http://www.marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    did anyone catch Bruce’s Halloween video

    yes i did michael. cool stuff. the song itself reminded me of what Bruce did with the bluesy version of “Reason To Believe” at the Magic tour shows.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8q7dga-deQ Michael

    Yeah, the bullet mic. He used it on the “Devils & Dust” tour, as well – along with a pump organ. The “Reason to Believe” performance was great to see.