Wrecking ball

Interview in today’s Guardian with Bruce Springsteen about his new album:

At a Paris press conference on Thursday night, Bruce Springsteen was asked whether he was advocating an armed uprising in America. He laughed at the idea, but that the question was even posed at all gives you some idea of the fury of his new album Wrecking Ball.

Indeed, it is as angry a cry from the belly of a wounded America as has been heard since the dustbowl and Woody Guthrie, a thundering blow of New Jersey pig iron down on the heads of Wall Street and all who have sold his country down the swanny. Springsteen has gone to the great American canon for ammunition, borrowing from folk, civil war anthems, Irish rebel songs and gospel. The result is a howl of pain and disbelief as visceral as anything he has ever produced, that segues into a search for redemption: “Hold tight to your anger/ And don’t fall to your fears … Bring on your wrecking ball.”

“I have spent my life judging the distance between American reality and the American dream,” Springsteen told the conference, where the album was aired for the first time. It was written, he claimed, not just out of fury but out of patriotism, a patriotism traduced.

“What was done to our country was wrong and unpatriotic and un-American and nobody has been held to account,” he later told the Guardian. “There is a real patriotism underneath the best of my music but it is a critical, questioning and often angry patriotism.”

[…] Springsteen, 62, says he is not afraid of how the album will be received in election-year America: “The temper has changed. And people on the streets did it. Occupy Wall Street changed the national conversation – the Tea Party had set it for a while. The first three years of Obama were under them.

“Previous to Occupy Wall Street, there was no push back at all saying this was outrageous – a basic theft that struck at the heart of what America was about, a complete disregard for the American sense of history and community … In Easy Money the guy is going out to kill and rob, just like the robbery spree that has occurred at the top of the pyramid – he’s imitating the guys on Wall Street. An enormous fault line cracked the American system right open whose repercussion we are only starting to feel.

“Nobody had talked about income inequality in America for decades – apart from John Edwards – but no one was listening. But now you have Newt Gingrich talking about ‘vulture capitalism’ – Newt Gingrich! – that would not have happened without Occupy Wall Street.”

Having previously backed Obama, Springsteen says he would prefer to stay on the sidelines this time. “I don’t write for one side of the street … But the Bush years were so horrific you could not just sit around. It was such a blatant disaster. I campaigned for Kerry and Obama, and I am glad I did. But normally I would prefer to stay on the sidelines. The artist is supposed to be the canary in the cage.”

Obama hasn’t done bad, Springsteen says. “He kept General Motors alive, he got through healthcare – though not the public system I would have wanted – he killed Osama Bin Laden, and he brought sanity to the top level of government. But big business still has too much say in government and there has not been as many middle- or working-class voices in the administration as I expected. I thought Guantanamo would have been closed but now, but he got us out of Iraq and I guess we will soon be out of Afghanistan.”

The album is the last on which Clarence Clemons, the legendary saxophonist from the E Street Band, played on before he died last year. “When the sax comes up on Land of Hope and Dreams,” Springsteen says, “it’s a lovely moment for me.”

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