Working On A Dream
There’s never been a better time to be Bruce Springsteen. As well as being one of the understandably smug Barack Obama-backing celebs – which has to feel pretty damn fine right at this moment – there are the bubbling rumours of a Glastonbury headline slot, which have got every chap and his dog into a rabid tizzy, and with good reason; Springsteen’s last few ’round-the-world jaunts have shown that his vigorous heart-on-sleeve rock’n’soul antics are still belly-shudderingly exciting, not to mention downright captivating. Yet while 2007’s ‘Magic’ saw The Boss whet his political whistle, ‘Working On A Dream’, his 16th (16th!) studio album, sees him eschew such stylings and instead go for broke on telling tales and flashing his soul; the soul of a global phenomenon who, this year, turns 60.
Getting straight down to business with the hefty, eight-minute long opener that is ‘Outlaw Pete’, Bruce flexes his bulging storytelling muscle through a filmic, old western epic; a cross-country and cross-career trip with a crim that, oddly, borrows as heavily from Kiss as it does Bruce’s very own back catalogue. The riff from ‘I Was Made For Lovin’ You’ keeps on rearing its disco head, but alongside ominous clanging bells, E Street brass and a characteristically darkly soaring scope, it’s a marathon anthem for the anti-hero.
‘My Lucky Day’ is proof he still hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to make eyes at his sweetheart across the diner and then funnel it into a hit complete with tripping keys and sax solos, while the title track provides a laid-back home for Bruce’s unmistakable, blue collar billionaire growl. The personable perkiness is kept up on the stripped-back countrified folk of ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, a hazy sunny meadow of a track which far overshadows the rather skip-able, uninspired birthday bounce of ‘Surprise, Surprise’. The album’s oddest moment though, comes in the shape of ‘Queen Of The Supermarket’, a rather bizarre love letter to Tesco, which sees Bruce’s favourite, unfulfilled New Jersey girl next door transported to the fruit and veg aisle.
Things take a turn for the maudlin on the foreboding ‘Life Itself’ and ‘The Last Carnival’, the latter written about the E Street Band’s Danny Federici, who died last year. It’s a sentimental hymn to bromance lost, which, alongside the heartbreaking acoustic balladeering of bonus track ‘The Wrestler’, from the Mickey Rourke movie of the same name, will have you weeping away the end of the album… Yet even with such sadness, yep – it’s definitely gonna be a great year to be The Boss.