Thursday, March 08, 2007

"All I'm Thinkin' About" / Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen is such a lightning rod -- people are equally passionate about loving him or hating him. You can't just sit on the fence. I once owned The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle and I liked it just fine; but later on I got turned off of Bruce. I was turned off by two things: the rabid conversion tactics of his fans ("Oh, but you have to see him live to understand" -- WHY IS THAT? I never saw the Beatles live but I understood their music); and the steadily mounting self-importance of his songs.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not criticizing his politics (though some anti-Brucers do), I'm just tired of Bruce being the designated Spokesman-General of the United States. Bruce gets interested in the plight of the American farmer; Bruce "discovers" AIDS; Bruce takes it upon himself to express our national sorrow over 9/11. Sure, he's sincere, but he's never the first person on the bandwagon, is he? And then he feels he must pump up his songs to anthem-strength, tacking on extra choruses, back-up choirs, louder drums, louder guitar, passionate vocal refrains -- cranking it up to eleven. He never met a majestic chord progression he could resist. I once tried to listen to The Essential Bruce Springsteen straight through, all three discs of it; soon I found myself fast-forwarding through the end of every song. Even those old E Street Shuffle tracks I used to enjoy seem tedious to me now.

But hey, not every artist is well served by his Greatest Hits collection. Before I totally write off Bruce Springsteen I figured it was only fair to dig deeper into his catalog, looking for anything less grandiose -- or anything with a sense of humor. And that's when I came upon this lovely track. It's on Devils & Dust, which many Springsteen fans seem to feel was a disappointment. I don't see why. I like the acoustic, storytelling side of the Boss, and this song in particular is actually . . . well, I won't say funny, but it is certainly light-hearted.

"All I'm thinkin' 'bout is you," he announces, over and over (apparently it really IS all he's thinking about), adding "Ain't nothing in this world I can do about it." The drumbeat ticks along like a V-8 engine, delicate steel guitar licks decorate the edges of the song, and he's singing in this breathy falsetto that I find darn appealing. Sometimes he doesn't even hit his notes -- endearing.

But of course there are verses, too, each one a vignette of a country scene: a flatbed truck running down a dusty highway, a couple of barefoot kids fishing, a family going to church (those gospel ooh's he throws in there, nice touch) and the daddy downtown brawling on a Friday night. The last verse is almost apocalyptic: "Field turned up, the seed is sowed / Rain comin' in from over across the road / Big black curtain comin' across the field / Blind will see and lame will be healed." I'm willing to ignore the fact that this Jersey boy probably never walked barefoot down a dusty country road in his life. At least he's listened to enough Delta blues to breathe in its spirit.

So there is one Bruce Springsteen track I like, even though it isn't a typical Bruce Springsteen track. And for all I know, there may be more like this, hidden away. Just lighten up, please, Bruce -- don't take yourself so seriously. You're really a nice guy when you relax.

Give it a spin:

1 comment:

Ro-Ro said...

I can't forgive The Boss for Born in the USA. Pretty much the whole album and especially the song.

I like "crankin' it up to eleven." :-))