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Wrecking Ball
Bruce Springsteen Wrecking Ball
Released 2 March 2012

Ron Aniello, Bruce Springsteen
Label Columbia
Length 61:46
Genre Rock
Website brucespringsteen.net

With a title like Wrecking Ball, one would suspect that Bruce Springsteen’s latest album would be a powerful assault or biting social commentary on modern America. And while Wrecking Ball does deal with modern life, the fire of Born in the USA, Darkness on the Edge of Town, or more recently The Rising, seems to have gone out. Despite song titles like 'This Depression', 'Death to my Hometown' and the titular 'Wrecking Ball', there is very little subversive or shocking about this album. It is a safe release, that isn’t going to challenge or offend very many people.

Of course that’s not to say that it is a bad album, far from it. It has many of the classic aspects of Springsteen’s music which make him so popular. Influences range from folk, blues, roots, soul and bluegrass to good ol’ rock and roll, and throughout the E Street Band maintain the impression that they enjoy the music they play. It is a fun and appealing album, but not overly memorable, and far form the best material Springsteen has ever released.

Wrecking Ball opens with lead single 'We Take Care of Our Own', a jumpy, hard-rocking ode to blue collar America. The problem is not that it is a bad song, just a forgettable one. In an album clearly responding to the many problems in American society, the overwhelming message – both on this track and others – seems to be one of simplistic hope. "Wherever this flag’s flown/ we take care of our own", sings Bruce, a line which sums up a lot of what Wrecking Ball has to say: If we all pull together and love each other, we’ll be okay. There is no anger, no deep rooted hopelessness, no genuine from the heart emotion, and really no songs that will ever be considered among The Boss’s best work.

There are still moments on Wrecking Ball which hint at greatness. When Bruce cries out, "I was raised outta steel/ here in the swamps of Jersey" in his harsh yet melodic vice at the beginning of the title track before launching into a driving guitar melody which builds up to the elegant release of a catchy, jazzy chorus,  it is possible to forgive this album its failings. This may be Springsteen on an off day, but it is still evidence of a masterful musician doing something he loves. Wrecking Ball may lack depth and fall short of its potential, but it is worth the listen nonetheless.

- Bernard O’Rourke