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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bruce Springsteen -- The Rising


After a seven-year album hiatus, Bruce Springsteen returned in 2002 with The Rising, and to much fanfare.  After ten years, it's a bit difficult to see what the fuss was about.  This is a bunch of mid-tempo, timid rock songs with generalized lyrics more in the vein of Springsteen's early 90's releases than his best work.  The two major differences I can really see between The Rising and Human Touch/Lucky Town are sound and context--the full-band (and the E-Street Band, Springsteen's REAL band at that) sound instead of just Bruce and some cheap instrumentation recorded in a sterile basement; the fact that 9/11 happened a year before this album's release (both of these things were able to spawn a hyphen AND a semi-colon).
After Bruce's all time best lyric writing and storytelling in The Ghost of Tom JoadThe Rising gives us a lot of vague lyrics about faith, hope, and carrying on.  Without the spectre of 9/11 looming, some of these songs just sound like navel-gazing nonsense.  The worst offender might be "Mary's House," in which the narrator has "seven pictures of Buddha, the prophet on (his) tongue, eleven angels of mercy..." Bruce should know better.  You try to include everyone, you just exclude everyone.  Anyone with true belief in anything isn't going to care about the song's sentimental cry to "let it rain, let it rain."  Worse, songs like "Into the Fire" just sound like grandstanding--though it is supposed to praise NYC firefighters, it sounds like Bruce is standing in front of an American flag, eating a hunk of cheese.  It isn't the only song to fall into this hole, and with fifteen tracks spanning almost an entire CD's memory, that's a lot of dairy to digest.
Then again, with fifteen songs, you'd expect to get a fair share of good songs, and The Rising has those, too, also a difference from his early 90's work.  "Nothing Man" proves the point "Into the Fire" attempted to make.  The rousing title track bravely waits thirteen cuts in to make its appearance.  "Paradise" is a ponderous but lovely and haunting song.  The violins and ripping electric guitar of "Worlds Apart" foreshadow the work Bruce will tackle throughout the rest of the decade.  There are enough solid tracks like these to make The Rising not quite a comeback, but not a total loss, either.  It's just an okay album, a documented transition period that helped Bruce realize the public eye didn't have to be poison, and that his albums could again sound cinematic, and not like they cost a week's allowance to produce.  It's a good fit for Springsteen fans as a piece of history, but newcomers should only pull this one from the bargain bin (and if you want, you'll see it's easily found there.  Culturally hyped but overrated albums always are).

2002 Columbia 1. Lonesome Day  4:08
2. Into the Fire 5:04
3. Waitin' on a Sunny Day 4:18
4. Nothing Man 4:23
5. Countin' on a Miracle 4:44
6. Empty Sky 3:34
7. Worlds Apart 6:07
8. Let's Be Friends (Skin to Skin) 4:21
9. Further On (Up the Road) 3:52
10. The Fuse 5:37
11. Mary's Place 6:03
12. You're Missing 5:10
13. The Rising 4:50
14. Paradise 5:39
15. My City of Ruins 5:00

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