CD Review: Bruce ‘working’ heartstrings on new record

By Jeanine Budd, News Staff

On his 24th studio album, Bruce Springsteen has made an obvious change of tone from frustration and cautionary tales of the heart to themes of love and hope, just as the title, Working on a Dream, suggests.
As previous reviews of his songs have pointed out, Springsteen seems to have a natural ability to reflect the feelings of the nation. When Magic hit stores two years ago, The Boss sang on its title track about an age of deception.
He sang with anger, asking, ‘Who’ll be the last to die for a mistake?’ on the titular cut ‘Last to Die,’ with a suggestive finger pointed at the George W. Bush administration. He even hosted a show on Sirius’ ‘E Street Radio’ during inauguration week, on which he said goodbye to the previous administration, welcoming President Barack Obama and his freshly-appointed Cabinet.
On Working on a Dream, Springsteen sings of perseverance and finding happiness in a time of’ hardship, including classic odes to the working class and universally downtrodden with songs like ‘Queen of the Supermarket’ and the award-winning cut ‘The Wrestler,’ composed for the Darren Aronofsky film of the same name.
‘With my shopping cart I move through the heart of a sea of fools / so blissfully unaware that they’re in the presence of something wonderful and rare,’ the enamored Springsteen sings on ‘Queen of the Supermarket.’
On the album’s title track, he seems to go as far as echoing the Obama campaign’s slogan of change and hope.
‘I’m working on a dream / though sometimes it feels so far away,’ he sings.’ ‘Rain pours down, I swing my hammer / My hands are rough from working on a dream.’
‘ On ‘What Love Can Do,’ the grim realism that characterizes so many of Springsteen’s classic songs is even peppered with the idea that good intentions and love are what really matter in the end:’ ‘Darling I can’t stop the rain or turn your black sky blue, but let me show you what love can do,’ he sings.
In an interview with Newsday earlier this year, Springsteen said this album was written at the end of recording sessions for his 2007 album, Magic. While it’s clearly an extension of Magic’s poppy, radio-friendly tunes, songs like ‘Outlaw Pete’ and ‘Good Eye’ save it from redundancy by giving it distinction and emotion.
‘ On ‘Good Eye,’ Springsteen and the E Street Band use a classic, bluesy rock ‘n’ roll tone as the vehicle for their tried-and-true musical chops, and on ‘Outlaw Pete’ Springsteen uses eight minutes to paint an epic picture of cowboy life, using cinematic emotion as his strongest tool.
‘ And by choosing to end the album with ‘The Wrestler,’ he gives it the power to evoke emotion, as so many Springsteen hits, from Lost in the Flood to The River to The Ghost of Tom Joad, seem to have a knack for.
‘If you’ve ever seen a scarecrow filled with nothing but dust and weeds / if you ever seen that scarecrow then you’ve seen me,’ he sings. ‘If you’ve ever seen a one-armed man punchin’ at nothin’ but the breeze / if you’ve ever seen a one-armed man, then you’ve seen me.’ Springsteen sings slowly, evoking the same depressed image as the film.
‘ It’s the heartfelt lyrics and powerful emotional punches that The Boss seems to turn out incessantly that make this album worthy of joining any Springsteen collection. If Magic is something you enjoyed, then Working on a Dream is sure to be more candy for your ears.
Overall, it’s these few highlighted songs that keep the album from feeling like Magic’s leftovers and pose as a reminder to all of The Boss’s faithful followers that potent music is still something Springsteen can use to bring us all together.

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