Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska


I am listening to Nebraska for the first time. In a word, stark. Deadly stark. Stark like living in a basement for 30 years with the windows blacked out. Ok, maybe I should slow down on the coffee and 7th grade poetry writing. It is a beautiful and powerful piece of music. It isn't house cleaning music. Each song is a story about the disenfranchised... mostly blue collar worker type tales (think lyrics from Billy Joel's Allentown, but more depressing). To me, the album feels like being stuck in a rut. I remember a couple of years ago when I was laid off again from Telecom and looking for work. For a brief flash, I felt totally liberated. I remember thinking 'Wow, I can do anything I want now. Anything! I could run for congress, or join the circus, or work for an airline and get sweet free flying benefits!' That lasted about a week or so. Then I realized, telecom was all I knew. Plus, after seven years in the business, I was pretty good at it. As I watched all the telecom jobs continue to move out of Colorado (errr, out of the country), Nebraska is the kind of record I might have made.

Another term to describe the album is sparse. The whole of it is Bruce with an acoustic and a harmonica. The harmonica work is as necessary. um... the skill level is right about that of Neil Young (not a compliment). This is no 'The Rising', which is to me the absolute apex of everything Springsteen has ever done. What? Blasphemy, you say! What about 'the River' or 'Born to Run' you urge? Shut yer pie hole! This is my review, and I find the Rising to be about the best thing I have heard all the way through. This disc is the total opposite - but above all it is terrific. It is thoughtful and sweeping and moody and somewhat depressing. Certainly no more depressing than everything Tom Waits does, who I love.

To give you a rough feeling, because I think you understand music better than most (or you wouldn't be here reading this) - when I first heard this version of 'Atlantic City' on the radio years ago, I thought it was the 'unplugged' version. I mean, there is no production value here... it sounds like one take straight through.

In what must be a recurring theme, this lyric has turned up in two separate songs 'I got debts no honest man could pay'. I am not sure what it means, but it may involve hiding from Clarence Clemmons come looking for his royalty pay. My buddy who turned me onto this disc suggest I not listen to it driving... cause I just might aim off the embankment. Nonsense, this album is empowering. After hearing this, I feel like a healthy, wealthy, powerful, and sexy guy... in comparison. This album was released in 1982, two years before 'Born in the USA' and musically a world away.

At no point in time does this album come across as anything less than genuine. This isn't the Boss doing research for a film, living with hog farmers. Somehow, though adored and rich, I absolutely believe this is the place he was at in 1982.

If I could compare this to any other album, it would be Closing Time from Tom Waits. Now, on no level am I comparing Tom Waits to Bruce Springsteen. They are completely different animals. But, Nebraska and Closing Time are both cut of the same cloth. I think of this kind of music as what I like to listen to when I am doing 12 or more hour long drives over night... which is about twice a year. I think this is the album Bill Clinton was listening to when he came up with that 'America, I feel your pain' stuff. Pick up Nebraska, and feel America's pulse again.


Roy said…
I graduated from high school in 1982 and had a cassette of "The River" and was smitten by the Boss. I bought "Nebraska" not knowing anything about it and dragged it with me to college and was astounded. The tone, the emotions, the shear depth of lyrics, contrasting with the stark emptiness of the music fundamentally changed the way I thought about music. This album is a creepy reminded that life isn't a whitewash but is instead full of depths, decisions and desperation, whether real, imagined or remembered in the past.
I am glad you enjoyed it.
yukondanmcgrew said…
I also enjoy the album. For It's starkness, for it's raw emotion and for the feeling the that I am connected to this horribly lonely voice coming out of my speakers. That kind of recording can only come from a person who is truly passionate about what they are doing.
Where was he in his life? What was he feeling? Was his heart breaking? Recordings like this that make me ponder these things are true treasures. They are the reason I love music.
alexw said…
im a 15 year old kid who loves the boss and i personally love having him change up his style a little. if he put out all darkness' and btr's and born in the usa's it would get old. i love finding acoustic versions of some of his songs like born to run, born in the usa and thunder road. ive found awsome acoustic versions of those that show the veriety he can have, you should look into them if you like nebraska.

Popular Posts