Bruce Springsteen's 'Wrecking Ball': What the Critics are Saying
Find out what a sampling of music reviewers had to say about the highly anticipated album, which hit shelves on March 6.
Wrecking Ball, Bruce Springsteen’s first new album in three years, debuted Tuesday, March 6 after much anticipation (and buildup). The 13-track album features special guests Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine and Matt Chamberlain, who has played drums for everyone from Pearl Jam to Tori Amos.
His 17th studio album could be The Boss’ most politically charged offering yet -- according to critics -- and just in time for the upcoming presidential election. With Wrecking Ball, Springsteen tries his hand at everything from Irish folk music to Southern gospel and even hip-hop, which has left some reviewer’s heads reeling.
In the lead single “We Take Care Of Our Own,” Springsteen questions the basic freedom that is fundamental to Americans and ponders, “Where’s the promise, from sea to shining sea?” The consensus of critics is largely positive, simply because the Boss is standing up for what he believes in: the U.S.A.
Read what the critics are saying about Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball below:
"Actually, for an election year, Wrecking Ball is a boldly apolitical record. The basic premise is that the true business of politics – responsible governing, a commerce of shared rewards -- is broken, with plenty of guilt to go around. It may be a sign of how hard optimism is to come by that Springsteen covers himself here -- reviving 'Land of Hope and Dreams,' originally released on 2001's Live in New York City – to insist all is not lost. He makes a glorious case. The new arrangement is Phil Spector gone tochurch with help from Curtis Mayfield. You get resurrection, too. The late Clarence Clemons is featured on saxophone, a beautiful extension of his life with Springsteen."
"But Springsteen doesn't always get it right on Wrecking Ball, a record that, more than anything he's done in a decade, sees him addressing Big Picture themes about America, war, the economy, provincialism and revolution.
Whether he's channeling Montreal's finest, his own New Jersey heart, Southern gospel, Irish folk music, New York rap (yes, there's a 16-bar rap -- very ill-advised -- on 'Rocky Ground') or Southern twang, the Boss is pumped up and full of anthemic energy.
Chances are this raised voice is the result of the election cycle. Bruce, though unwilling to take specific political sides (he alludes to right and wrong way more than he does right and left), refers to the state of America in nearly every song and understands more than anyone else that political music made in election years tends to reverberate louder."
"With economic injustice, Springsteen's powerful new disc has a subject he can sink his teeth into, and he matches it with music that hassome of the same clenched fury.
The working man who 'always loved the feel of sweat on my shirt' now wakes up each morning feeling imprisoned in a system stacked against him. In 'Jack of All Trades,' another versatile worker recites the jobs he can do, ending with a blunt and horrific description of how he'd like to treat those he's worked for."
"Springsteen evokes that pair of late-career highlights on Wrecking Ball, which has the rousing boisterousness of Sessions and the unflagging sense of self-determination of The Rising. It could use a bit more of the former and less of the latter. As with most artists who’ve taken up protest music in the wake of Occupy Wall Street, Springsteen makes no room for humor or specificity, writing lyrics that nod to everyman characters but speak in the generalized language of 'This Land Is Your Land' and 'Blowin’ in the Wind.'
In some ways, the too-slick production on Wrecking Ball is a scrim that allows Springsteen to compensate for his social detachment from his working-class subjects while perhaps convincing himself that he’s giving the people what they want -- a big rock record."
"Bells and whistles aside, it’s still a Bruce Springsteen record, and that’s why it works; an album chock full of heartland rock that details economic crises and spirituality with equal gusto."
He says 'Wrecking Ball' was inspired by Occupy Wall Street, and even though some of these songs were written before anyone pointed a bullhorn at the banks, he's smart to make that declaration. Whenever America's falling on hard times, his music simply sounds better, his lyrics taking on near-biblical significance…. (He actually wrote ''Wrecking Ball'' about the demolition of Giants Stadium.) That's the problem here: The images are so broad -- every song's got a rising flood or a train of sinners or a dead man's moon -- you'll be dying for a detail that's anchored in the real world, circa 2012."
"Wrecking Ball is seamless and of a piece, as all great albums are. Each song slots perfectly into the next. Albums that work in this way are few and far between (Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band/The Beatles; Imperial Bedroom/Elvis Costello; Achtung Baby/U2; to name only a few) where the songs don't just work thematically but the overarching sound chocks in like a puzzle piece. This is all the more impressive in an album like this one with a mix of so many different genres and styles."