While the documentary characterizes Darkness On the Edge of Town as a concentrated focus almost to the degree of being a concept album, The River is described as, essentially, a large batch of songs, expansive in its scope and varied in its themes. From the blind ambition of “Independence Day” to the existential crisis of the title track, Anthony DeCurtis asserts that such topics were “not the stuff of pop songs. Nobody else did that.”
Commenting on some of the lighter fare on the album, DeCurtis offers a perceptive view, which he says Springsteen once agreed with him on, that it’s those songs that the album’s characters would’ve listened to in their respective lives. Such an acknowledgment by Springsteen underscores the depth of thought and detail he instilled into the creation of his albums.
With the release of Nebraska in September 1982, Springsteen created his darkest and most desolate landscape yet in which to set his narratives. On songs like “Atlantic City” and the chilling title track, characters that are “tired of coming out on the losing end” resort to violence and murder to make ends meet. Borrowing a phrase from Southern novelist Flannery O’Connor, the serial killer in “Nebraska” rationalizes his murder spree by squarely saying, “Sir, I guess there’s just a meanness in this world”.
Following a pattern that he would maintain to present date, almost to the letter, Springsteen followed up the stark sounds of Nebraska with a full-scale rock record. Born In The U.S.A. introduced Springsteen to an even wider audience, yet it also attracted a myriad of misconception.
For serious fans, Bruce Springsteen – Under Review 1978–1982, Tales of the Working Man will suitably complement your overflowing collection of Springsteen music, videos, and memorabilia. Sure, you may already know some of the basic facts that are addressed, but the thorough analysis contained within this documentary will certainly put this era of Springsteen’s work into a sharper context and, for that, it’s well worth watching.