Tuesday, February 10, 2009

working on a nightmare

As somewhat of a follow-up to the yelling and screaming about Billy Joel – and Springsteen – from the last few weeks, I give you this entry. I’m here to report, as a Springsteen fan, on his hot, new offering, Working on a Dream. I wrote every word of this while listening to the CD once through. Rest assured, it won’t get another listen.

Outlaw Pete – What is this? This is the opening track? I guess you don’t want me to listen to the rest of the CD. It seems to be a yarn with no point and bad music. I’ve got to say that I’m really disappointed in this effort. I’ll try to marry the imagery up to something beyond a baby robbing people in his diapers, marrying a Navajo, getting hunted by Dan, killing Dan, and riding off. Yikes. (grade: C-)

My Lucky Day – More droning music that attempts to vaguely sound like the E St. Band. I’ll guess that this song is either for his wife or his daughter; but who knows? Another poor song at the front of the CD. (D)

Working on a Dream – Please, give me something. At least there’s a groove going with the music – something missing on the openers – but lyrically it’s pretty hollow. It appears that Bruce is, in fact, workin’ on a dream…that’s the vibe I get. Clearly, he’s not workin’ on songs. (C+)

Queen of the Supermarket – “A dream awaits in aisle number two.”? Surely this is a joke. This is awful. A story song about a girl at the grocery who the narrator is smitten with? A fine subject rolled into a crappy song. I think Bruce needs to give her a name: Mary, Wendy, something! I don’t like a single bit of this song. Not one bit. In the end, he did get his groceries to his car. Well done. (F)

What Love Can Do – F. There’s my grade right off the bat. I don’t even need to listen all the way through to pass judgment. I’ll make it through the song out of respect, but it’s awful. This sounds like a bad bar band doing a bad song. It seems like he’s trying to address dire circumstances and where we lie within those circumstances. I’ll tell you what, just read that last crappy sentence I wrote and put it to music. There. Now you know. (F)

(mental health break)

This Life - I am seriously going to be sick. This dandy is about exploding stars, galaxies, the universe, love, etc. It’s really bad. He did work “I fingered the hem of your dress” into the song; it rhymes with “my universe at rest.” Putrid. (D-)

Good Eye – My, oh my. A semi-blues rocker that calls Tom Waits to mind. There are only about four lines of lyrics – which on this CD makes me thankful – but the music is at least respectable. In the grand scheme of things this song might warrant a B-, but in the context of this CD, and its other songs, I’ll grade it higher (B)

Tomorrow Never Knows – Cue some of the Sessions Band action. The is the first track with music that sounds fresh, even though it calls out to folk, and inviting. Once he works strings into the mix it showcases just how good he can be in the folk environment. That’s a good thing because as far as I can tell it’s all that he’s got left. (B+)

Life Itself – It was but a short reprieve. I don’t know if it’s Steven Van Zandt of Nils Lofgren playing the solo in the midst of this ship wreck but it’s horrid. Maybe this is a song about relationships and drinking (?), but honestly, I haven’t the vaguest idea. Droning droning droning. (D)

Kingdom of Days – At least there’s some rhythm to the cut. A nice chorus (as far as this CD is concerned) fills out this diddy about time passing and guys and girls walking through life. For the first time they FINALLY let Max Weinberg, Clarence Clemons, and Bitten/Federici cut loose on instruments. For that, the song gets some credit – but it’s not great. (B)

Surprise Surprise – Opens with the chorus and the band in full flight. Could this be something? We got a birthday party and a song sung to the birthday girl (?). Unfortunately, this could have been made-up at a kid’s request to ‘sing me a song about my birthday’. Maybe it was, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not a very good song. (C-)

The Last Carnival – A song that would probably fit better on Nebraska. Lyrically, it’s probably the strongest on the CD; a clear story about the risks and hardships in life tied to a carnival life. I’m not too sure I like the ending with the choir showing up out of nowhere and wrapping up the song. (B-)

The Wrestler (Bonus Track) – There better be a bonus; maybe I should just call it a song added to the end. There’s finally something that does justice to what Springsteen can do when he puts his mind to it. I’m sure he worked hard on the actual CD part of the CD but the results aren’t good. This song, if you’ve seen trailers for The Wrestler, fits perfectly with the feel of the film. Maybe what Bruce needed was some focus. This is a really strong song. (A)

Overall? A few of the songs could possibly pull this debacle out of the garbage if it were another artist, and there were no expectations, but I’m calling him out for shoddy workmanship. This CD is nothing better than a C-/D+…and I’m being kind. Since The Wrestler is a bonus track I’m not letting it play with the other songs; it was clearly written in another time and place – maybe the late 1970s when Springsteen was really good – and won’t sway my opinion. Horrible.

I just tried to give the CD away to guy at work. No dice.

It’s a good thing he still puts on a good live show. I read the other day where Bruce said that he thinks his last three albums (not including Sessions) stand up positively against any three albums he’s every done. That is purely delusional.

I feel dirty.

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