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Reviews

Bruce Springsteen
Working On A Dream Mark Eglinton , January 27th, 2009 09:42

If I am wrong about this, I will happily kick open the screen door, jump in my ’58 Chevvy and drive headlong (and naked) down the Turnpike (or in my case, the A13) singing "I’m in love with the Queen of the supermarket” for all to hear. For it is abundantly clear that, despite reports to the contrary, Working On A Dream is the Boss at his most touching, joyous best, and all that with no agenda in sight. Anyone looking for the bleak introspection of Nebraska should look away now. For what we have here is largely uplifting, sweet even, and the sound of a man capturing both greatness and a feeling of youthful exuberance.

Largely recorded with the E-Street band during the Magic Tour, Springsteen’s sixteenth studio album continues the spontaneous nature of that previous offering. Again under the guidance of producer Brendan O’Brien, it’s the sound of a band enjoying what they do - the songs have a glimmer and a polish that complements their light, yet eloquent, lyricism. Opener ‘Outlaw Pete’ might suggest familiar territory but lyrically it’s much more City Slickers than, say, Cool Hand Luke. It’s a humorous ditty of the sort that only Springsteen could carry off, but that he does, and from that moment on, as ever, you’re on his side. ‘My Lucky Day’ is a typical, down the line rocker, high on the joys of life. Both the title track and ‘This Life’ are pure Roy Orbison, right down to the backing vocals. This is real top-of your voice in the car stuff.

The lack of political commentary, calls to arms or blue-collar, ‘me against the world’ anthems throughout Working On A Dream actually ends up being refreshing. Yet despite his healthy bank balance, Bruce Springsteen once again shows that he still knows how to relate to the man and woman perusing the frozen food section of the local store. This is none more so than on ‘Queen Of the Supermarket’, where “a dream awaits in aisle number two”.

The influences to be found are both familiar and surprising. ‘Tommorrow never Knows’ manages to out-Dylan Dylan, but without the self-consciousness. Hints of Tom Petty on the chirpy ‘Surprise, Surprise’ and occasional nods to the Beach Boys give a sunny, west coast tinge to Springsteen’s generally very Eastern seaboard leanings. This is in perfect keeping with the upbeat pop undertones throughout.

It is worth noting the one moment where the fun relents – for it’s for good reason. ‘Last Carnival’ is a moving tribute and sad farewell to E-Street band member Danny Federici, who died in 2008. As usual The Boss is spot on with his sentiment. ‘The Wrestler’, a bonus track that appears in Mickey Rourke’s film of the same name, might attract the most attention, but it isn’t, by any means, the best thing here. It’s a tragic, doleful lament for an aging combatant desperate to summon up one last effort. Springsteen himself could have easily headed down that route himself, but instead he’s turned things on their head when we least expected him to.

When we might have expected a state of the union address we didn’t get it. In an inspired moment of clarity, one of our generation’s greatest songwriters and icons made a judgment call to say to hell with global economic meltdown and overseas conflict. They’re inescapable and thrust into our faces by the media on a daily basis. What we’re rarely reminded of lately is how great it is to be alive, to be in love and to share those emotions, the essence of life itself. You can’t help admiring and embracing Bruce Springsteen’s decision to share it with us in Working On A Dream.

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