Some songwriters are striving for vague outlines of ideas and concepts. Bruce Springsteen is (and always has been) a story teller. Some of these stories are upbeat, some tell of the horrors of the life of the forgotten or downtrodden. Wrecking Ball seems to be an album of stories where folks are looking for redemption in the face adversity.
Over the years, Bruce Springsteen has moved more and more away from the bar rock of his early career and more towards other more Americana elements. This album seems to be a blend country-esque rock mixed with a gospel feel. Repeated choruses with a big choir feel often blur that country/gospel line, none more so than the finishing lines in "Shackled and Drawn", where a preacher asks us to "stand up and be counted".
If you were looking for another Nebraska or Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ, you might be disappointed. If, instead, you were looking for a more preachy, mature Darkness on the Edge of Town, you should be more than satisfied. "Jack of All Trades" in particular harkens back to the Darkness track "Factory". The biggest standout, however, is easily the celtic (yeah I said celtic) ditty "Death to My Hometown", complete with penny whistles and jauntily sung truths about difficult lives lived.
The most notable aspect of this album, bar none, is the lack of saxophone (except on "Land of Hope and Dreams", a track recorded for The Rising). Some of the songs seem to be morose, sung by a man who has lost his best friend and longest collaborator. The significance of the loss of Clarence "Big Man" Clemens is hard to miss.
Where to find Wrecking Ball (pre-order, the album is out March 6th):