Saturday, February 7, 2009


If I have one criticism of Bruce Springsteen’s latest album, the optimistic, Obama-hope-infused “Working On A Dream,” it’s this-he just too damn happy.

Bruce needs to be singing about getting screwed by the factory boss while trying to get your ’65 Chevy started when you’re down by the river with Crazy Janey on your way to a pink Cadillac in the darkness of the edge of town. Don’t ask me what the hell that’s supposed to mean-Bruce’ll sing it and it will make sense.

It’s been a prolific decade for the Boss-five studio albums, three live albums, a 30th anniversary reissue (with one planned for later this year), four DVD releases and two retrospective compilations. But Bruce is at his best when he’s wrestling with the dark side of the American dream, and there’s just too much optimism flowing through the lyrics on this album. The music follows suit, with classic pop and folk derived melody deftly woven together by Brendan O’Brien’s heavily layered production.

Sadly, the lyrics do not live up to the music in many cases, often bordering on banal (“Queen Of The Supermarket?”). There a few exceptions, and a standout cut for me is “The Wrestler.” I love the lyric, and the simplistic arrangement.

Now let me say a few words to assuage the Bruce faithful before they seek me out and bury me up in the Meadowlands. A bad album from Bruce is still better than most great albums by other artists.

Living in Arizona, I miss the hoopla that a new Bruce album used to be (still is?). Out here, you’re lucky to find Bruce as all of the display space is reserved for Jordin Sparks and whoever the country sweetheart of the week is.

I’m sure back in Philadelphia, stores opened at midnight and people braved the elements at lunchtime to buy their copy.

Maybe I’m living in the past-heck, I bought a copy on vinyl-but I miss the days when a new Bruce record was an event.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


It’s been a long drought in postings, due to some malware (anyone know how to get rid of MicroAV?) and other commitments (work, school). I think it’s appropriate that I kick things off with a review of the latest CD by my favorite artist.

Anyone who purchases “Arena” expecting a disc full of “Hello It’s Me” or “Can We Still Be Friends” is going to be a little surprised. There is an obligatory ballad (“Courage”) but that manages to rock a bit, and the majority of the album rocks a lot!
The title, “Arena,” refers to the majority of the songs having loud guitars, sing-along choruses and lots of hooks, all blended nicely into an album of fist-pumping and cerebral anthems. It took three-quarters of 2004’s “Liars” for Todd to pick up a guitar, but he more than makes up for that here.

At 60, Todd probably won't convert many new fans with this disc, although it really is a return to form and (IMHO) his best album since 1989’s masterpiece, Nearly Human. Arena's baker's dozen, one-word-named tunes are expertly crafted rock songs that push the envelope of Rundgren’s best work, current musical trends be damned. There’s a little irony in the album title, as this style of music hasn't been an arena draw since the Reagan administration.

So crank it up, raise your fist and yell! Bombastic, guitar-driven tunes like 'Mountaintop', 'Strike' and 'Mad' will have you on your feet, while the anthemic song 'Mercenary', transports you to a stadium with its epic chorus, and you're going to be singing along with 'How Do You Like Me Now?' making your neighbors doubt your sanity. A must have for all rock fans.