It's like eatin' caviar and dirt

Song: Better Days
Album: Lucky Town
Year: 1992

I was really ready to give this song a hard time, given that the last track I heard off this album was so revolting. I was rolling up my sleeves! I was lickin' my chops! Then I was lickin' my sleeves because I got confused for a second! (Also what are chops?!)

But "Better Days" is an excellent example of Melancholic Bruce, and you KNOW how I feel about Melancholic Bruce (very good). Though it's vaguely of a love song ("These are better days, baby/Better days with a girl like you."), it's actually mostly about him being rich but not feeling rich, which is starting to replace roads/trains as a major theme through his work. It's important to take note of these patterns, because one day I hope science can create a Bruce Springsteen song generator so we can all finally relax, secure in the knowledge that the world will never be at a loss for songs about feeling like a fraud and/or going for a nice drive.

Watching this video, I thought I caught a glimpse of a giant cross around Bruce's neck, but upon closer inspection it turned out he's actually wearing TWO giant crosses—a bit of an odd choice considering that a thorough investigation (googling "bruce springsteen religious???") revealed that Bruce was raised Catholic but identifies as agnostic. My theory? They're not crosses at all, but actually lower-case "T"s, a reference to new wife Patti Scialfa and the better days he's enjoying with her.

This makes me feel: Hopeful and sad—the Springsteen sweet spot.

Rating: 7 better days out of 10.

Fun Bruce Fact: American Idol judge Randy Jackson plays bass in this song.

Fun Randy Jackson Fact: The guy is 60 YEARS OLD AND I DO NOT UNDERSTAND HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE. Starting a new blog about RJ's beauty tips RIGHT NOW.

The Wildest Things We'd Ever Seen

Song: Bobby Jean
Album: Born in the USA
Year: 1984

This song kicks off with a conversation with Bobby Jean's mom, but then she's never mentioned again, so here's a fun game: picture Bruce performing this song dramatically while she just waits there awkwardly to finish up.

"Maybe you'll be out there on that road somewhere, in some bus or train traveling along!!!!!" Bruce wails, flinging his body dramatically onto the dinner table where the rest of the family is pretending he doesn't exist and enjoying their tuna casserole in peace.

Bobby Jean's mom hands him his denim vest, a polite-but-firm gesture indicating that he should leave now. "She's just at the mall."

He slams his fist against the wall, and wipes away a tear from his eye with that classic Bruce Red™ bandana, and gives a throaty whisper: "Know I'm thinkin' of you with all the miles in between." Then he pulls out a saxophone he smartly stashed under the love seat on his last visit to Bobby Jean's family home and plays a sweetly sad solo because of COURSE there's saxophone, do you not understand how LONGING WORKS?!

It probably isn't his best and most impressive interaction with an older woman in the course of his discography, but  at least he didn't abandon this one on the side of the hot highway, so we'll call it progress.

This makes me feel: SO GOOD TOP NOTCH BRUCE A+

Rating: 9 walks in the rain out of 10! Add this bad boy to my Best of Bruce list!

Fun Bruce fact: Looking up Bobby Jean on Wikipedia (because I am a research professional), I was alerted to this astonishing news: "In recent years, crowds, especially in Europe, have taken the habit of arm-waving in unison throughout the song." It really makes you reflect on the incredible impact the internet has made on our lives.

 

Jesus, Send Some Good Women to Save All Your Clowns

Song: Wild Billy's Circus Story
Album: The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle
Year: 1973

Oooooh! A tuba!!!

This is obviously not a "song" in the traditional sense of having a "melody" or "chorus," so I assume it must actually be some sort of a backdoor pilot for Bruce's sitcom about a ragtag group of circus performers. Look at all these breakout characters! A sweaty fire-eater, somebody named Missy Bimbo, a human cannonball with a serious lack of confidence. Put these guys in a New York apartment building and you've got yourself six seasons on CBS.

If I had to pick someone to get their own spin-off, it would be the young man named simply "Circus Boy." (His parents must've been working through some stuff.) Circus Boy's schtick is that he dances on barbed wire, though it is not clear why that would be an enjoyable thing to do, or to watch. Maybe he thinks it'll be a good addition to his college application? We all know Ohio audiences are hungry for blood sport but this seems like a little much.

Overall, though, I give this one a thumbs up. It's hard to dislike anything that incorporates the phrase "the elephants dance real funky."

miniature-world
miniature-world

Rating: 5 TUBAS OUT OF 10 TUBAS!!!

This song makes me feel: like going to Miniature World and staring at the circus exhibit just like this lady in the promotional picture until they ask me to leave because I'm ruining the fun for everyone.

Fun Bruce Fact: He has an asteroid named after him! What a man.

 

Everything Dies, Baby, That's a Fact

Song: Atlantic City
Album: Nebraska
Year: 1982

Okay, we've got the mob, a crummy town, and desperate people, and public transportation gets a shout-out. This is basically a Bruce Springsteen Mad Lib. Another convention I'm noticing pop up a lot is B instructing people how to get dressed. In the last song, you had to put on a coat while he got his hat. Here, we're supposed to put our makeup on and fix our hair up pretty. Maybe that's why they call him the Boss: because he's so CONTROLLING sometimes. CHILL OUT, BRUCE! MY BODY, MY CHOICE!

"Atlantic City" is a great song, which is probably why like 30 different bands (among them, the Counting Crows) have covered it. It's basically a mini movie! It's very depressing and also there's an explosion—key components to any Oscar-winning script. Boardwalk Empire, another Atlantic City-themed media property, would've been greatly improved by an infusion of Bruce's poetic drama. Imagine what the show could've accomplished had HBO put him at the helm. Also, imagine that while working on the show, he and Steve Buscemi became best friends and the media started calling them "Steve Bruce-cemi" or "Bruce Springsteve Buscemi." Just. Imagine.

Just a candid picture of two great pals after an awesome day out on their dune buggies!!!!!
Just a candid picture of two great pals after an awesome day out on their dune buggies!!!!!

Rating: 8 chicken men out of 10.

This song makes me feel: sooooo melancholy. I'm beginning to think Nebraska isn't exactly a party album.

Fun Bruce Fact: Apparently Ryan Adams' cover of Taylor Swift's 1989 took its sonic inspiration from Nebraska, as if there wasn't enough to love about it already. Careful you're not flying a little too close to the sun, Adams.

 

All Them Fat Cats, They'll Just Think It's Funny

Song: Easy Money
Album: Wrecking Ball
Year: 2012

While most of the shanties you may have enjoyed in the past have likely been sea-oriented, I think this still qualifies as one, too, due to the heavy-handed fiddling. (Also, you can definitely sing it on a boat. DON'T LET ANYONE TELL YOU YOU CAN'T.)

I know this song is supposed to be an allegory about citizens taking revenge for the economic crimes of fat cat bankers, but it's also a song really romanticizes muggings. He and his gal are getting dressed up for date night, and it sounds so much fun! We're learning a lot about how The Boss treats a lady from his music. A nice long highway drive in the dark and some light looting are his equivalent of dinner and movie from what I can tell.

The YouTube comments on this song are mostly about how to make money working from home, proving that in addition to being a musical genius, Bruce Springsteen is also a master of SEO. If I ever record a song, I'm  going to name it "One Weird Trick for Weight Loss" and wait for the hits to come rollllling in.

Rating: 6 out of 10 fat cats.

This song makes me feel: like eating a lobster roll. (To be fair, though, the odds of catching me in this particular mood are pretty high.)

Fun Bruce Fact: Answers.com says that Bruce Springsteen's favourite colour is blue but offers no citations to back that up, so this is less a "Fun Bruce Fact" than it is a "Juicy Bruce Rumour," but beggars can't be choosers.

I Got the Fortunes of Heaven in Diamonds and Gold

Song: Ain't Got You
Album: Tunnel of Love
Year: 1987

I never thought I would see a day where Bruce Springsteen would debut a song that clocks in at just over two minutes, but I guess today is that day. Or I guess October 9, 1987 was that day and I missed it because I was a three-month-old baby who didn't yet understand the concept of music. Incredibly rude of me.

The Boss spends this song sadly bragging about all the fancy things and he's got stowed all over his many mansions—just another classic everyman tune. It's like a bizarro-world version of "If I Had a Million Dollars" or the interesting-person version of "Lucky."

Genius.com calls the song it "starkly autobiographical" but I sincerely doubt Bruce is slamming caviar on the reg. Yes, he's a multi-millionaire and has been for most of his life, but I still believe the only way he would eat caviar at home is as a dip for chips while he's watching baseball. We all know what B is really spending his money on: model train sets. (The man loves trains!)

Rating: 8 fancy foreign cars out of 10.

This song makes me feel: proud of Bruce. Even though this is his shortest song ever, he still manages to slip a shoutout to King Farouk in there because he's a goddamn professional who knows that that mentioning a rich Egyptian man is a key ingredient in any hit single.

Fun Bruce fact: CelebrityNetWorth.com lists one of Bruce Springsteen's nicknames as "Bad Scooter." Maybe it means that there's a whole concept album I haven't listened to yet where he performs under that name as an alter ego, à la Chris Gaines! ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!

 

Well, Our Love Will Chase Trouble Away

Song: Working on a Dream
Album: Working on a Dream
Year: 2009

Great art asks questions. And music is no exception.

The questions this song asks, for example, are "How many times is appropriate to use the phrase 'working on a dream' in a three-and-a-half minute song?" and "Is it 17?" and "Do you guys like whistling?"

But artistic work of genius or not—and I am leaning towards not, based on the lack of highway metaphors and saxaphone solos here—I am very bored by this song. It's inoffensive (like a warm custard), but also disgusting in its blandness (like a warm custard you're forced to eat when you've got a head cold and can't actually taste anything, and so you're all like, ugh, is this mucus?!).

What do we need to do to spark Bruce's fire again? Send a bunch of young men to war? Shut down a factory in a blue collar town? The U.S.'s current stable-ish global position is making the Boss soft. Let's make America terrible again.

Rating: 4 dreams out of 10 dreams, dreams dreams dreams.

This song makes me feel: like building a house. Probably because if you replace the word "dream" with "house," it makes just as much sense. I might actually like it more. The sun rise up, I climb the ladder/The new day breaks and I'm working on a house.

Fun Bruce fact: "Working on a Dream" was nominated for a 2010 Porin Award for Best International Song. If you don't know what that is, I guess you're not Croatian, which is weird because that's really the target demographic for this blog.

 

The Times are Tough Now, Just Getting Tougher

Song: Cover MeAlbum: Born in the U.S.A. Year: 1984

Even though I have now studied almost two dozen of Bruce Springsteen's finest songs and also a one off of Lucky Town, I still find B slightly mysterious at times. In this jaunty tune, for example, I am not sure if Bruce wants a lover to watch his back during dangerous times, or if he just wants to be physically sprawled upon. Is it an anthem for street toughs, or a sex thing? I want to look it up but I'm on my work computer and I don't want to get fired for being an internet pervert. Although what would I even google? "Crush-play?" "Spread eagle + power bottom?"

Rating: 6 lovers who will come on in out of 10.

This makes me feel: like taking care of business! (In my imagination that means some sort of '70s montage where I'm busting into nightclubs and stealing money back from sleazy venue owners. You know: the sort of business I enjoy doing.)

Fun Bruce fact: He originally wrote this song for Donna Summers. WHAT?! Another fun fact: here is the DANCE REMIX. I don't even know who you ARE anymore, Bruce!

 

Tonight You Step Away From Me

Song: Walk Like a Man
Album: Tunnel of Love
Year: 1987

People (well, baby boomers) love sharing memories in the Youtube comments of Springsteen songs. I think it's because they have kids who won't let them sign up for Facebook. Usually they're reminiscing about fooling around at Makeout Point (in a car, as the Good Bruce intended), but in the "Walk Like a Man" chat zone, everybody is just hanging out and being sad about their dead parents. So, yeah, not exactly a party jam over here.

Am I even allowed to criticize this? It's about a man mourning his dad and also I have no training in the musical arts (in case that was not abundantly clear in the last 20 posts). I'm trying to have some sympathy, but I just don't know if being sad about losing someone is a good enough excuse for an extended metaphor about "footprints in the sand."

...Oh, god, I feel like a monster for thinking that. Just do what you want Bruce! I'm so sorry for your loss! Talk about how you've "grown from a seed he's sown" as much as you want! If that revolting phrase helps you honour the memory of your late father, then YOU NEVER HAVE TO STOP.

Rating: 4 sad synths out of 10.

This song makes me feel: like Bruce needs a hug.

Fun Bruce fact: Wikipedia lists six songs with the title "Walk Like a Man." Grand Funk Railroad's is probably the best. Maybe I should start a GFR blog next?

 

A Thick Desert Dust on Your Skin

Song: Devil's Arcade
Album: Magic
Year: 2007

When you've been writing music and touring for twenty years, you're bound to get a little tense. A few knots in the shoulders. A stiff neck. But then you go to the spa to dig into that deep tish, and you hear the new-age garbage they're playing, and you're like, "Ugh, I'm Bruce Springsteen, I deserve better than this."

That's right: you deserve a Bruce Springsteen-ified version of that new-age garbage. And so you make a song of your very own that captures the soothing essence of a waterfall while also being deeply critical of war.

It's lyrically a very beautiful song (I am pretending it's about soldiers who are kind of in love with each other even though I know that's not even a little bit correct), but the way The Boss sings this sounds like he's doing an impression of himself and it is very distracting—"your" becomes "yer," that sort of nonsense. It's probably because his mouth is too relaxed to open properly, thanks to the spa-like vibe he's created.

Rating: 4 slow games of poker with [sexy] Lieutenant Ray out of 10.

This makes me feel: like getting a massage and also not going to Afghanistan.

Fun Bruce fact: His nickname was "Doctor" before it was The Boss. Some people don't even get ONE nickname, and here he goes hogging the two best ones. Rude, Bruce. Rude.

 

Strangers From the City Call my Baby's Number

Song: Candy's RoomAlbum: Darkness on the Edge of Town Year: 1978

Okay, men. Can you just leave Candy alone for a hot second? Number one, she presumably still lives with her parents (this isn't called "Candy's Rental Apartment" or "Candy's Duplex" after all) so it is not appropriate at all for you to be giving her diamonds and/or toys. Number two, it sounds like she's deeply depressed and engaging in self-destructive behaviours, or at the very least dabbling in some teenage poetry, so I think it's best for everyone if we just give her some space to figure herself out.

That being said, if Candy the person is half as hot as this track, I can see what all the fuss is about. It's got adrenaline. It's got fun keyboard riffs. It's giddy and sweet and melancholy AND prominently features several lines about driving in the dark, because as we all know that's how Bruce expresses almost every emotion. (Or at least the big three: Love. Angst. Indigestion.) Do you think at this point, Bruce Springsteen has spent as much time singing about being on the highway as he has literally spent in a car on the highway? Researchers, please forget about saving the ozone or whatever and get on this.

Rating: 9 strangers from the city out of 10.

This makes me feel: like I want to know more about Candy. What pictures of heroes are on her wall, exactly? Are they Teen Beat posters, or like, presidential portraits?

Fun Bruce fact: Bruce has never had a job besides being a musician. I think it's pretty obvious though that his real dream is to be a highway repairman. Maybe one day, B. Hang in there, buddy.

Senate-Passes-Highway-Funding-Bill-But-House-Balks_blog_post_fullWidth
Senate-Passes-Highway-Funding-Bill-But-House-Balks_blog_post_fullWidth

In a Small Tin Shack On the Edge of a Ravine

Song: Sinola Cowboys
Album: The Ghost of Tom Joad
Year: 1995

Ugh, this is such a dad song. I mean, I guess all Springsteen songs are dad songs. But there's something particularly dad-ish about this one. I know what I'm supposed to be picturing is a Mexican family struggling to make a new life for themselves in America, but instead it's a crowd at a concert and they're all wearing light-wash jeans with their shirts tucked in.

I went to look up the lyrics and a little ad for a "Sinaloa Cowboys" ringtone popped up. Tell me you can't picture some dad setting up his flip phone with that nonsense. Ugh. Pulling it out of the pocket of his stupid light-wash jeans and then jabbing at it with his dad fingers and then getting it all tangled in his dad mustache. Ugh. Dad song.

OR AT LEAST THAT'S WHAT I THOUGHT UNTIL I CONTINUED TO READ THE LYRICS RIGHT THIS MINUTE!!!

Gasp! Twist!

I had really tuned out what was happening in this song because it's so slow and not connected to Vampire Weekend in any way. But upon further inspection, this song is basically Breaking Bad. It turns out the sweet Mexican family starts cooking meth to make ends meet, and then one of them dies in a chemical explosion and his brother has to bury him in the woods. Bruce, you sly, Vince Gilligan-channeling dog: you turned a dad song into a rad song! (But also a sad song. A man dies, you guys.)

Rating: 5 horrifying images of being burned alive in hydrolic acid out of 10.

This makes me feel: scared of meth. Which is the correct way to feel about meth.

Fun Bruce fact: HE WROTE A SONG ABOUT MEXICAN METH COWBOYS. HOW MUCH FUNNER CAN I GET OVER HERE?

 

My Kisses Used to Turn You Inside Out

Song: I'm Goin' Down
Album: Born in the U.S.A.
Year: 1984

I had heard the Vampire Weekend cover of this, without even realizing it was a cover. More proof that Bruce is All Around Us.

It's a song about a relationship that's falling apart, but he doesn't seem to be too mad about it. Or even if he was, there's no way to express it: there's no such thing as an angry sax solo. I even tried googling it:

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 10.43.30 PM
Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 10.43.30 PM

Rating: 8 Angry Birds out of 10.

This makes me feel: like seeing a Vampire Weekend/Springsteen supergroup team-up, please please please please?

Fun Bruce fact: This is officially the best piece of Springsteen merch on Ebay and it is only $10. Should I buy it? I should probably buy it.

$_57.JPG
$_57.JPG

I Got Some Beer and the Highway's Free

Song: Sherry, DarlingAlbum: The River Year: 1980

Well this is all a lot of raucous fun, but if my boyfriend abandoned my mother on the highway—my unemployed mother, who is obviously having a tough go of it as it is—I would not be all revved up to go have a fun night of drinking and driving with him. Also, it seems like part of his plan for this romantic date is to go ogle girls at the beach. Who is this guy? How did we wind up together? I've made some huge mistakes and need to seriously re-evaluate my life choices.

It reminds me of that Jimmy Soul song, "If You Wanna Be Happy." Both appear to be recorded in front of a live studio audience who are having the best time hearing about women being belittled. I choose to believe that Bruce is in a bit of a character for this one: the Springsteen Id, if you will. Real Bruce doesn't build up this anger and anxiety over familial responsibility; he does what he needs to do (help a down-on-her-luck woman collect a meagre unemployment allowance to help her scrape by as she looks for more work in this economy) and releases any tension out over a sweet sax solo. LIKE A MAN.

Rating: 6 out of 10 blocks that Big Mean Bruce Springsteen made an elderly woman walk in the hot sun.

This makes me feel: like rolling my eyes at the cliche of the big-mouth mother-in-law, but in a way that's secretly in-time to the music because it's just a good song and we all know eyeballs just can't resist a groove.

Fun Bruce fact: Another Bruce Springsteen blog, Burgers and Bruce, reports on The Boss's fave way to dress a 'burg: "A burger in 1950s America. It's nothing like what you get now. A thin little patty, squirted with ketchup, and that's the only type of burger there was." This is the kind of investigative journalism I can get behind.

This Pier Lights Our Carnival Life Forever

Song: 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
Album: The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle
Year: 1973

Mom,  do we have to invite Uncle Bruce to Thanksgiving? He just gets drunk and spends all night telling rambling stories about one summer where he got all slutty down on the boardwalk.

Oh god, he brought an accordion.

Yes, Uncle Bruce, you have told me about the time you almost died on a tilt-a-whirl. That sounds very scar—what? I don't really understand what men wearing high heels really has to do with this story. And the detailed descriptions of the public sex you were having back then is a little inappropriate for the dinner tab—what? No, that's a Super Nintendo, not a "pleasure machine," please stop calling it that.

Rating: 4 auroras rising behind us out of 10.

This makes me feel: boooored. And... itchy?

Bruce fun fact: Springsteen wanted a children's choir to sing on this song, but they never showed up for the session. WHERE ARE THOSE KIDS?

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Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 4.39.18 PM

Top Youtube comment on this song, as voted by me: ....EVERY GUY.

In Your Love, I'm Born Again

Song: Leap of Faith
Album: Lucky Town
Year: 1992

This would be a good song to put on if you are in a '90s rom-com and have to do a montage about cleaning up your act. So if you have any plans in the near future to time travel and swap bodies with Billy Crystal, and then paint a dilapidated house as a metaphor for rebuilding your life before you reconnect with The One That Got Away, then keep this one at the ready. Otherwise, I can't think of any other situation where you could play "Leap of Faith" and feel good about yourself. Though it's kind of a religious and kind of about love-making, it is ironically neither a good song to play at church (because it's too sexy) nor a good song to play while sexing (because it's terrible).

It's sort of like Madonna's "Like a Prayer," but not like it at all because it's not even a little bit fun. If you pick "Like a Prayer" at karaoke, you are a hero. If you pick "Leap of Faith," there will be riots. I know this because I would definitely start one.

brucedonna
brucedonna

Rating: 2 leaps off of a building to my death out of 10.

This makes me feel: like I was invited to "hang with some cool people" who "have some really interesting thoughts about life" and realized much too late that it's actually a youth group.

Bruce fun fact: He released two albums, Lucky Town and Human Touch on the same day. I don't really understand why he would be so eager to foist this one on the world, but you do you, Bruce.

 

If You're Rough Enough For Love

Song: Tougher Than the Rest
Album: Tunnel of Love
Year: 1987

You guys, I think Bruce Springsteen is in love!

When a man is feeling some feelings, he pulls out all the stops. For the Boss, that means incorporating synthesizers and tambourines and harmonicas into the same song. Now, that sounds like a terrible combination in principle—like mixing salsa and waffles and movie-theatre popcorn, three great tastes that do not necessarily taste great together, believe you me—but it works just fine because, as I mentioned previously, this is Bruce Springsteen. His trick (you sneak-faced musical genius, you) is to use a faux-down-home twang to distract from the unusual mix of elements, just like you should when you're serving your dinner party guests a casserole of salsa and waffles and movie-theatre popcorn. ("Want me to microwave that for ya, hon?", "You've barely touched your food, y'all!", etc.)

I would categorize this song as a bit of a fantasy, because we all know in real life Bruce would not have to spend three whole minutes to convince some broken woman that she should take a shot with him. If this were more true to reality, the song would be just him going "Well, it's Saturday night..." and her going "I've been practicing my Dancing in the Dark finger-guns in anticipation of this moment ARE WE MARRIED NOW OH GOD I LOVE YOU" and then the rest of the song would just be some sweet harmonica soloing.

But then we'd miss the romance of his pitch to her. And when you have a chance listen to B talk about a dark road and a white line (Bruce. Loves. Roads.), you've gotta take it, even if you're a fictional, unnamed character in a song. That's the oath I personally took when I started this review project, and I don't expect anything less of imaginary love interests.

Rating: 8 sweet-talkin' Romeos out of 10.

This makes me feel: like slow-dancing at a wedding. Any wedding. Are you getting married? Can I come to your wedding? I'll see you at the wedding.

Bruce fun fact: This song has been covered by a bunch of different people, most notably Emmylou Harris. I guess that makes this more of an Emmylou Fun Fact. Life is full of surprises: it's best you learned that now.

The Hungry and the Hunted

Song: Jungleland
Album: Born to Run
Year: 1975

I've been attempting to review this song for like four days. It is very, very long and I keep getting distracted in the middle. Millennials, right? This was recorded in the days before podcasts, but that's really what it should've been classified as. What a chatterbox. But I get why he goes on and on and on here—there's a lot going on in Jungleland.

The protagonist of this song is named The Magic Rat, so we're obviously off to a great start. He appears to be dating a girl who doesn't own shoes. The police—oh, pardon me, the "Maximum Lawmen"—are not a fan of these guys; it sounds like they're not a fan of music either. Maybe Jungleland is some sort of Mennonite community? Anyways, some of the kids in town have a battle of the bands and then Magic Rat seems to wind up dead. The official report is that his "own dreams gun[ned] him down," but I suspect the police may be covering something up. I hope the Jungleland judicial system implements some sort of investigative task force.

I can't remember if I've asked this before, but has Bruce Springsteen ever written a musical? I get the impression that he really wants to. I'm envisioning a lot of sleeveless plaid shirts and a lot of very athletic leaping. Ideally a chorus of steelworkers, too.

Oh man, just did the very minimum amount of research (thanks Wikipedia! No, I'm still not giving you any money!) and apparently John Malkovich (!) used this song in his 1980 production of Balm in Gilead as a background for a "choreographed tableau of street denizens miming a tragic slice-of-life." So I guess this just confirms what we all already kind of expected: Malovich and I share a brain.

Rating: 7 out of 10 guitars being used like switchblades.

This makes me feel: exhausted and dramatic. I want to dance! I want to live! I want to drink warm beer on top of a car hood and then take a nap!

Fun Bruce fact: Apparently someone did try to make a musical of B's music in 2002 but didn't get the OK from the Springsteen camp. Probably because they didn't want any competition for the incredible Broadway show of his own that he's been working on in secret for 30 years. (Working title: Babes in Jungleland!)

You're Walkin' Tough, Baby

Song: The Ties That Bind
Album: The River
Year: 1980

I can't tell if this song is celebrating the ties that bind or is warning of their restrictive power, because of the thick, delicious musk of melancholy that envelopes all of The Boss' songs. Either way, diggin' it, so bind me up with a side of ties, good sir! It apparently was written while on the road touring, which explains the relatively simple lyrics—the E Street Band probably makes B leave his thesaurus at home (rude).

This song hits that Springsteen sweet spot: it's poetic without being wordy, less than six minutes long, and mentions both "running" and "the rain"(two common thematic elements in his work that are not trains). And yeah, there's a saxophone solo for no good reason, in case you'd forgotten that this is Bruce goddamn Springsteen. It's a masterpiece, and I am not surprised that 12 years later The Cure would attempt to start off "Friday I'm in Love" with an almost identical guitar riff. (You thought no one would notice because you kept the hot sax licks out of it, but I'm on to you, Robert Smith. You can't just slip one by Bruce Springsteen's #1 fan and best friend* like that.)(*pending)

M02204g_Springsteen
M02204g_Springsteen

Rating: 9 out of 10 long dark highways, connecting your heart to mine. This makes me feel: real fi-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-iiiiine. Fun Bruce Fact: The Ties That Bind is also the title of an encyclopedia about Bruce Springsteen. Imagine being so accomplished that someone makes an encyclopedia about you. New goal.

Let It Rain, Let It Rain, Let It Rain, Let It Rain

Song: Mary's Place
Album: The Rising
Year: 2002

Bruce Springsteen wrote a party anthem and I don't think I like it very much! Ooooh noooo!

It seems almost like two different songs have been mashed together here. He starts out meditating on religion, and then it's a little like the Black Eyed Peas (They love starting parties! They love turning it up! You know that!) teamed up with a gospel choir and attempted to write a new Cheers theme song. In this fantasy world, Taboo has learned how to play the saxophone, obviously.

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I think I would like this song a lot more if the chorus wasn't "Meet me at Mary's place/We're gonna have a party." I just keep picturing a very terrible party for some reason, which is unfair. Mary has done nothing to hurt me (unless she's the same Mary from this awful song.) Bruce has only great things to say. There's music! There's laughing! There are lockets! This party has it all. And yet I can't help imagining that this party is too loud, lit by fluorescents and filled with people who think it's acceptable to smoke indoors. None of that is in the song! Where is this coming from!? The human brain is a beautiful mystery.

It's a surprisingly frivolous song. I'm used to Bruce singing about the big issues that affect us all: catching trains, being a secret murderer, etc. Although according to brucespringsteen.com, your official source for all the Bruce news that's fit to print, The Rising was meant as a response to 9/11. So maybe "Mary's place" is actually a metaphor for America? And "furniture on the front porch" is like... the troops?

But it's probably more likely that Bruce just wants to let loose for once and the song is just actually about hanging with your buds. It's hard work being America's blue-collar poet laureate. Sometimes, you've just gotta blow off some steam. Sometimes, you've gotta light some candles, put on your best locket, and let the night unfold.

Rating: 6 keg stands out of 10.This makes me feel: like a real jerk. He's just trying to have some fun and/or reclaim a small shred of freedom after a life-altering terrorist attack. Why am I ruining this for everyone? Fun Bruce fact!: "Hungry Heart" was originally written for The Ramones. You might have expected me to save that fact for when I review that song, but I'm full of surprises, just like him.