Review: Bruce Springsteen's "Working on a Dream"

After finishing a movie or book, I feel the need to immediately spout my opinion. I rarely do this with new records. For one, music is much more intricate and takes longer to fully understand. There are sounds, lyrics, an overall feel/message, etc. that take months to play out. Having now heard Springsteen's new release Working on a Dream, I'm going to break that personal promise.

Over the past year or so, Bruce has made a number of moves that left his fans perplexed. First came the announcement that he'll be playing the Super Bowl. Then came the real slap to the face: Bruce would be selling a Greatest Hits compilation (something he's already done twice), solely via, ummmmm, Wal-Mart. Yes, that is correct.

We all hoped that vindication would come with Working on a Dream due via Sony or BMG or BMGSony on Jan 27. The initial signs pointed to a return to form after the overly glossy Magic. "The Wrestler", penned for Mickey Rourke's fantastic return to the big screen, is one of the best songs Bruce has released in years. It stands right next to "Devils and Dust" and "Terry's Song" as a top-notch latter-year Bruce tune. Then came the title track. And once again, a good one. "My Lucky Day" may be a slight step down, but as a trio, he was three for three.

Then came the rest.

The opening track, "Outlaw Pete", an eight-minute in-your-face rocker (I guess), is an absolute disaster. Perhaps Bruce has been spending too many nights with his pal Jon Bon Parachute Pants. When Bruce wails, "I'm Outlaw Pete!!!! Can you hear me?!?!?!" it's as if Sambora and Steve Perry have their arms around Bruce. This song is that bad.

The remaining tracks are a mixed bag, but mostly lean towards the feel of Pistol Pete. "Queen of the Supermarket" is sappy. "What Love Can Do" is reminiscent of Joseph Arthur but is dreadful. "Good Eye" is a swampy blues number in the vain of RL; it's a good tune but feels very out of place among these odd, errrr, pop/rock/Billy Falcon numbers. "Tomorrow Never Knows" is a country ditty and has a nice feel, but is lyrically vapid. The rest of the tunes are TBD, but I'm not left with a huge impression.

As a whole, and again, it's way too early for me to give a true review, this is a big disappointment. Following the solid Devils & Dust, Bruce appears to have rushed out consecutive stinkers. As a hero to many, myself included, some of his moves of late are head scratchers. Working on a Dream leaves us increasingly baffled.

If I could offer some advice to Bruce, I'd only say the following: Lose Brendan O'Brien and turn to your guitar, preferably one that's not tied to an electrical outlet.


GregCott said...

I thought it was me. Thank you for your commentary on Bruce's latest effort. I agree 100%---its a very mixed bag. And Outlaw Pete with the diapers schtick robbing a bank? what is that about? Its horrible.

There are about 3 or 4 good cuts--the whistling on Working on a Dream is sooo cheesy-- and the over-orchestration kills the album. He has run his course with Brendan O'Brien---time to move on. And get a cohesive album---maybe Working on a Good Album?