Bruce Springsteen- "Working On A Dream" (2009)

If you’re a fan of Bruce Springsteen or his style of Americana rock, I think you’ll enjoy this album. I felt ambivalent towards it overall. It’s hard for me to make a judgment on whether Springsteen’s new album is an improvement, or whether his style is growing or not. I haven’t listened to his entire back discography with a critical ear. Naturally I’ve heard all of his greatest hits, and I can appreciate that he’s a legendary American musician, and it remains to be seen whether this album has spawned more lasting hits for him.

That being said…. I was impressed by the bonus single ‘The Wrestler’, which was not nominated for an Oscar but did win a Golden Globe. It’s a poignant back-alley epic that could be the anthem of anyone who has fallen on hard times. The lyrics are hard-wrought, homespun, blunt pieces of an American folktale. I also enjoyed the folksy ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, but most of the other songs didn’t stand out to me. ‘Lucky Day’ was catchy and typical of the album’s upbeat, hopeful tone. The title track ‘Working On A Dream’, though actually one of the least memorable songs, spoke straight to Joe Everyday, and indeed most of the album was focused with laser precision on the everyday, working man/woman. In that way the songs were very accessible and unpretentious, but bordering on bland at times. I expect to hear some of them in car commercials.

‘Outlaw Pete’, the opening track, was a bit of a speed-bump to start the tracklist with. The old-timey-style outlaw ballad was not dark or captivating enough to grab my attention, and it was a clunky way to get the album going at eight minutes long. It would have made a better closer. One song stood out to me in a very bad way, and that was ‘Queen of the Supermarket’, which is being hailed by many as the worst Springsteen song ever written. I understand the sentiment behind it, being the story of an everyday crush on the woman at the check-out, but the lyrics made me laugh and I really don’t think that was what he was going for. You really have to hear it, and you can make your own judgment if you do, so I’ll bite my tongue and hold back any mockery I’m tempted to fall into.

“Working On A Dream” was a good effort on Springsteen’s part, with heartfelt if not always consistently strong lyrics, samples of all types of down-home American music styles, great back-up instrumentation from the E Street band. I’m sure it will resonate with his audience and fans across the world. I wasn’t all that entranced by it, but then again I’m not a big fan of his style. The album came off as good but average, but for a couple of more shining examples. I give it a 7/10.

7/10

Bruce Springsteen- Working On A Dream

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