Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska

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Not so much an album as it is a collection of short stories, by which I mean, these songs are all about specific people (you) and places (America, goddamnit).

But I also mean that there is very little happening musically: he goes about almost all of these songs with an acoustic guitar slung over his back and a harmonica slung around his neck like he were Bob Dylan – ‘cept he isn’t Bob, either lyrically and especially not melodically. (Only “Open All Night” has an electric guitar, and that one ain’t much anyway.)

I make it no secret that I dislike Bruce Springsteen; sometimes I wonder if it’s simply because I’m not white enough or American enough to “get it.” And yet, thinking about it, I’ve long felt disconnected from my Chinese culture, and Canada isn’t exactly worlds apart, distance or otherwise. Plus, there are a ton of American albums that I connect all too deeply with. “Atlantic City” – apparently a highlight – reminds me of Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction,” which was a better song (mostly due to the phrasing of the gruff vocals); “Mansion on the Hill” recalls “Nebraska”, but worse; “Highway Patrolman” and “My Father’s House” recall “Mansion”, but longer; etc. There’s exactly two good things about this album: the wailing harmonica of the opener, communicating the sadness of the cover, more so than any of his vocals or lyrics, and “State Trooper,” where he lets loose his inner “Frankie Teardrop” over an acoustic chug that mimics the minimal synth approach of Suicide’s debut (he also yips on “Johnny 99”).

Never before has political despair sounded so fucking boring.

B-

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4 responses to “Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska

  1. I’m not a big Springsteen fan, but this is one of my three favourite Springsteen albums and probably the last one I think is worth bothering with. I wouldn’t say I dislike him, but his music definitely belongs to a certain time and place. I don’t necessarily find a connect with it, but I do love Born To Run, Darkness and this. Something about that place and time that I like.

    The biggest issue I have is that he’s still singing the same thing. Tales about people he no longer has anything in common with. And you can hear it. It’s Springsteen by numbers … By Springsteen. That make sense? His last few albums sound like someone who is struggling to remain relevant. Has been for a while, I guess.

    • Makes perfect sense to me. I have it on good authority that Born to Run and Darkness are worth checking out, and I have checked them out, but I’ve also checked out of checking them out, ya know?

      That Springsteen belongs to a time and a place makes perfect sense – it’s just neither my time nor place 😦

      • I understand that completely – there are a few artists that I’m done with shortly after checking them out. Sometimes if you miss the train there’s no point running for it, y’know?

  2. Fair play, he ain’t for everyone, and this album is a tough one to call a favourite when he has so many others (I still get drawn to The River). But I’m gonna have to agree to disagree on this one, I like this album top to bottom. What you find boring, I find meditative. À chacun son goût!

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