There's Just a Meanness in This World

Song: Nebraska
Album: Nebraska
Year: 1982

Another song about murder! I'm beginning to think maybe Bruce has some skeletons in his closet (from the people he murdered, let me be perfectly clear). It starts off with a fun harmonica but then it's revealed that the narrator of this song is about to be executed so that's a bit of a bait and switch. Although I guess harmonica is sort of the unofficial instrument of prison, and I really should have expected this from the get-go.

Okay, just did a little research and It turns out this song is about the true story of a teenage serial killer in the '50s. He was 19 and had a 14-year-old girlfriend (so I think we all should've seen his creep factor even before all the sawed-off-shotgun stuff came into play) and basically he killed her family and then the two of them went on an additional killing spree and stole a bunch of cars because they were terrible problem solvers. I did not expect to be learning so much about American true crime with this music project, but life is full of surprises.

Starkweather
Starkweather

Rating: 6 harmonica solos out of 10.This makes me feel: like I'm sitting next to a campfire in the desert trying not to think about all that's lurking in the darkness around us (murderers). Fun Bruce fact!: He recorded this whole album by himself on a cassette tape. NO BIGGIE.

You Can't Get Out of Your Skin

Song: Your Own Worst Enemy
Album: Magic
Year: 2007

My initial reaction was that this is a pretty lazy song by B—clearly filler material. But listen, 2007 was a hard year for us all, what with... the economy and... Afghanistan? And any song that starts with jingle bells can't be all bad. (Perhaps an auditory reference to another person of a jollier quality coming to town, hmm?) (Wait, is Santa Bruce Springsteen's worst enemy?!)

This album was well received by critics, but this song isn't even mentioned in the Wikipedia entry for this album, so how good could it be? Your silence speaks volumes, Internet. Perhaps everyone's just feeling burned for accidentally downloading this instead of the hit 1999 Lit song of a similar title.

"Your Own Worst Enemy" at first appears to be about a murder (Fingerprints! Crime scenes! A variety of mirrors!) but the 'Steen wouldn't be so literal, so I think it's actually about hating yourself. Maybe if you'd written a better song, Bruce, you'd have more self esteem. Or maybe it's about President Bush? That's a pretty good guess during this era of work. Nothing "magic" about that guy, am I right, Bruce? Ha ha ha! Oh, it feels good to laugh. Let's never fight again!

 

Rating: 3 unnecessarily melodramatic string sections out of 10.

This makes me feel: not very sympathetic to his distress. If your worst enemy is Bruce Springsteen (in this case, yourself), that is a pretty great life achievement.

Fun Bruce fact: He's been parodied on Sesame Street with a muppet named Bruce Stringbean singing hits like "Born to Add" and "Barn in the USA". The greatest honour any of us can hope to achieve. (Besides having Bruce Springsteen as your worst enemy—see above.)

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 8.23.21 AM
Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 8.23.21 AM

People Get Ready

Song: Land of Hopes and Dreams
Album: Wrecking Ball
Year: 2012

I needed to take a break from Bruce Classic (tm) so I turned to something a little fresher as a palette cleanser. If this is any indication of 21st Century Boss, I am ON BOARD. That's just a little train humour for you, because this song is about taking the train (or is it?!). It's nice to hear he's upgraded from the bus at this point in his career. He's earned it.

It starts with a gospel choir and has kind of a fun piano riff in the chorus that reminds me of Vampire Weekend (or was Vampire Weekend reminding me of Bruce all along and I just didn't know it yet?). And then he throws a sax solo in the mix too, because he's Bruce Springsteen and he can do what he wants. This song has everything I need and then some.

Rating: 8 conductor whistles out of 10.

This makes me feel: like being in a very emotional movie trailer. Or, you know, taking the train.

Bruce fact: A nun at school once put him in a garbage can. Listen, I don't approve of what she did, but if I had the opportunity to put Bruce Springsteen in a garbage can, I would, just for the story. What a great party icebreaker it would be to have that in your back pocket.

Ragamuffin Gunners

Song: Lost in the Flood
Album: Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ
Year: 1973

I'm starting to get the impression that Bruce isn't so into this whole "war" thing. Another rambley song, but this one gets a little dash of organ about halfway through, which makes me feel fondly towards it in the end. I'm hoping that he gets into rhyming and more populist song structure on the next album but who knows. Lyrically, I feel like someone just took all the words from the first four songs and rearranged things. It's kind of like how Mexican food is really just made of like five different ingredients rearranged in a variety of configurations. Tortillas wrapped around beans and cheese transforms into bean-and-cheese-topped tortillas; disenfranchised men playing guitar become disenfranchised men running away from the Army. But also like Mexican food, this song is satisfying overall and even more enjoyable while drunk.

Rating: 5 war veterans who have been abandoned by their country out of 10.

This makes me feel: like everything is kind of dusty.

Bruce fact: He got out of being drafted for Vietnam by pretending to be crazy. Great problem solving, B!

Keep the Change

Song: Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?
Album: Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ
Year: 1973

Bruce does a great job of capturing the essence of the rambling crazy people who often take the bus with me. It starts off totally innocuously, just like any conversation with anyone on public transit, and rapidly dissolves into nonsense. It also spends some time touching on a character who blows her nose—also something that happens on the bus on a regular, disgusting basis. So though this song is filled with whimsical imagery and incongruous phrases, it's actually rooted quite deeply in realism. Oh Bruce: you're a poet for the people.

Rating: 7 bus transfers out of 10.

This song makes me feel: like I've really been out of luck with my own personal bus weirdo experiences.

Fun fact about Bruce: He's won an Oscar and a Golden Globe. WHAT A CHAMP!

It's Not Too Early for Dreamin'

Song: Mary Queen of Arkansas
Album: Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ
Year: 1973

I hated this song so much I couldn't even finish listening to it a second time. Is he just making it up as he goes along? It seems crazy that three songs in to your debut album that you'd need to take a break from the concept of melody.

It's not that I'm mad at Bruce, I'm just disappointed.

Rating: Barf.

This Makes Me Feel: So angry. (Looks like I lied—I'm not disappointed, I'm mad.)

Fun Fact About Bruce: This song allegedly is about a drag queen, which initially made me feel bad about hating it so much, but then I realized that equal opportunity also can mean the equal opportunity to be in a terrible song. So... We did it?

The Clouded Wrath of the Crowd

Song: Growin' UpAlbum: Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ Year: 1973

Pretttty earnest, but I like the contrast of the abstract verse lyrics with the hyper-literal chorus. It might be about the war but it also might be about going to space, or maybe just about performing at a high school talent show. I have only done one of those things in my life so it's hard to say if all of those things conjure the same feelings for sure.

If I can just make a request to the sort of people who insist on "jamming" on their guitar around the campfire: maybe think about subbing this one in for Wonderwall every once in a while? Could be fun?

Rating: 4 growth spurts out of 10. This makes me feel: like deleting my Livejournal. Springsteen fun fact: He grew up downwind from the Nestle chocolate factory so everything smelled delicious all the time. WHAT A TOWN!

Cut Loose Like a Duece

Listen, I like Bruce Springsteen, but I'm ready to be IN-like with Bruce Springsteen, and that's going to take some research. So I'm going to become a superfan by thoroughly contemplating one song per day. Starting.... now.

Song: Blinded by the LIght
Album: Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ
Year: 1973

This is a revelation. Who knew he wrote this song? Probably everyone but me. This project is great so far—I'm already getting smarter! And so many ten-dollar words in the mix here, too. It's like a dictionary threw up all over a factory town.

It's a bold move to start off your debut album with a five minute song, but Bruce is nothing if not bold. He's an inspiration to us all, and looks good doing it. Here is a picture of Bruce in 1973. His facial hair could use some work, but it's hard to find time to trim your mature-teen-stache when you're crafting sheer poetry (if, in fact, phrases like "go-kart Mozart" can be considered poetry).

lede_brucespringsteen.widea
lede_brucespringsteen.widea

Overall, it's a little bit ramble-y and Dylan-y, but I'm into it. I like when Bruce acts as an omniscient narrator of New Jersey. He said, she said, shootin' stars in sidecars, etc.

Rating: 7 curly-wurlys out of 10 This song makes me feel: like making out in a beer garden. Bruce Fact of the Day: The Manfred Mann recording of "Blinded by the Light" is Springsteen's only number one single as a songwriter on the Hot 100. Bummer, dude.