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For his whole career, Bruce Springsteen has wrestled with the notion of what it means to be an American. Many of his songs deal with a sense of place, whether it be his home state of New Jersey or, in a larger context, the United States.
On “We Take Care Of Our Own,” the first single from his March 6 release, "Wrecking Ball," Springsteen's questions have become only more urgent as he sees America turning from a country that used to stand for “wherever the flag is flown/we take care of our own” to one where “I’ve been stumbling on good hearts turned to stone/the road to good intention has gone dry as a bone.”
[More after the jump...]
The uptempo tune, full of handclaps and a Spector-ish wall of sound, marks Springsteen’s first effort with Ron Aniello, best known for his work with Springsteen’s wife, Patti Scialfa; Gavin DeGraw and Candlebox. Though there are a few interesting musical fillips thrown in at the beginning, Springsteen isn’t trying to get too fancy here: “We Take Care Of Our Own” is straight ahead rock with an '80s-production feel. Vocally, Aniello has pushed Springsteen way up in the mix, which is a great move given how fresh he sounds here and given how much he has to say.
The song is instantly recognizable as Springsteen even before the vocals start. It opens with a big drum sound, before the ringing guitars and chiming keyboards fill every ounce of sound.
The pay off comes at the bridge, which crescendos as Springsteen asks:
Where are the eyes, the eyes with the will to see
Where are the hearts that run over with mercy
Where’s the love that has not forsaken me
Where’s the work that will set my hands, my soul free
Where’s the spirit that will reign, reign over me
Where’s the promise from sea to shining sea
Springsteen understands, even relishes in, his role as a modern-day Woody Guthrie or Pete Seeger, who expressed his love and his disenchantment with America ("Born in the U.S.A.," anyone?) His fans expect him to survey the landscape with us (not for us) and he certainly doesn’t disappoint those of us who are wondering, “How the hell did we get here?”
There are a few missteps, such as the echoing vocal repeat in the beginning of the first verse, which he thankfully drops after a few lines, and we’re not a fan of any song that name drops cities. Plus, the song breaks no new ground musically as Springsteen relies on many tricks from his past. But those are very small issues compared to the pluses and how majestically BIG the song sounds. Of course, missing in the mix is saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who died this summer. Can’t you just see him swaying on the hand claps or jangling his tambourine? Overall, it’s a solid, sturdy return.
"Wrecking Ball" (the title comes from a song Springsteen introduced in concert a few years ago) is Springsteen’s first since 2009’s “Working On a Dream." Springsteen’s manager Jon Landau told Rolling Stone that the set is a “big-picture piece of work...that combines elements of both Bruce’s classic sound and his ‘Seeger Sessions’ experience with new textures and styles.” Among the guests are drummer Matt Chamberlain and Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello. In addition to "Wrecking Ball," the album has two songs very familiar to Springsteen concert-goers: "Land of Hope and Dreams" and "American Land," according to Pitchfork.
Springsteen has announced a tour that starts in May in Europe, but there seems to be quite a bit of buzz that he may play U.S. arenas before he goes to Europe. As we previously reported, Springsteen will also deliver the keynote address at South By Southwest in March.
What do you think of “We Take Care Of Our Own?” (song is below the track listing)
01 We Take Care of Our Own
02 Easy Money
03 Shackled and Down
04 Jack of All Trades
05 Death to My Hometown
06 This Depression
07 Wrecking Ball
08 You’ve Got It
09 Rocky Ground
10 Land of Hope and Dreams
11 We Are Alive
12 Swallowed Up (Bonus Track)
13 American Land (Bonus Track)