Here, throughout Wrecking Ball, there’s little need for explanation. Bruce is mad at his country, and its leaders (of all political persuasions), for not taking care of their own. He’s furious at the robber barons on Wall Street who robbed people blind and took away their livelihoods. And he anguishes at the damage left behind by this wanton destruction.
At least that’s the first part of it. But starting with the title track, and going toward the closing “We Are Alive”, that madness, fury and anguish come colored with optimism. The path might be jagged, and the train might overflow with saints and sinners. But now, as then, there’s still a chance that things might get better because we have overcome in the past, and will again.
If it resembles any previous Springsteen work, it’s a cousin to Nebraska, exactly 30 years after Bruce’s stark, acoustic 1982 masterpiece about the other side of Reagan’s America, where anger, violence and despair were everywhere, but there was still a reason to believe in the final notes.
Name a rocker, any rocker, who covers this territory. Most don’t even try. They know that to do so will invite the wrath of those who don’t mind that their musical idols are money-making machines, but mind quite a bit when they think about issues more important than themselves.
The naysayers are out in full force now, using all of the usual epithets reserved for entertainers who dare speak their mind about something other than something they totally agree with. In essence, they’re telling Bruce, just as they told the Dixie Chicks, to shut up and sing, and by the way, only do “Jungleland”, none of that real-world stuff.
The true fans know better. Having grown up with him and taken him through adulthood and all of its inevitable travails, they see that the serious and the corny, the sadness and the romance, the pessimism and optimism, are all one big Bruce package deal. It makes him whole, human, real.