Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska

On September 30th of 1982, the New Jersey rocker Bruce Springsteen released his sixth studio album. Unlike previous albums, Nebraska was recorded on a cassette-tape Port studio (a four track recording device). If the songs sound a lot like demos, that was the intention. Everything is stripped down and simple. It is just Bruce doing the vocals, the guitar, the harmonica, the mandolin, the tambourine and the organ.

The album went to number 78 in Ireland, number 37 in Germany, number 8 in Australia, number 7 in the Netherlands, number 2 in Sweden, and number 3 in Canada, New Zealand, Norway, the UK and on the US Billboard Hot 200.

Side one kicks off with the title track. “Nebraska” immediately invokes the imagery of the wide open mid-west, thanks to the opening harmonica, the gentle guitar and the slow-gentle vocals. The lyrics tell of two teenagers who went on a killing spree.

Next up is “Atlantic City”, my favorite song from this album. It is a little more up-tempo (sort of). My brother played this one quite a bit so I became familiar with it by association. The lyrics paint the tale of a young couple running away to the New Jersey gambling mecca, but the romance fails when the man gets a job in organized crime.

“Mansion On the Hill” holds the center spot.

“Johnny 99” is next - it has a little bit of rockabilly to it with a faster tempo. The song was inspired by a real life closing of a Ford Motor Company plant that had been operating since 1955.

The side then ends with “Highway Patrolman” and the return of the slow tempo again. The tale is set in the 1960's and tells of two brothers, one the titular officer of the law and his more roublesome brother.

Side two starts off with “State Trooper” (which I would think was the same as a highway patrolman). I like the guitar on this one - it has a little of a subdued Dragnet feel to it.

“Used Cars” gives us another descriptive narrative at that slower tempo.

“Open All Night” is a breath of fresh air. This reminds me of more traditional Springsteen songs that I enjoy thanks to the electric guitar riffs. It is the story of a man who drives all night to get back to his girlfriend who is a waitress at a fast food joint.

“My Father’s House” bounces us back to the slower tempo again.

The side and album ends with “Reason To Believe”, which again increases the tempo to a more familiar pace.

The album is critically acclaimed. It appears on the “1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die” list. It holds the number 43 spot on Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Albums of the 80’s list and number 224 on their Top 500 Albums of All-Time list.

For me, this is not one of my favorite Springsteen albums. In a lot of ways, it sounds like Bruce is trying to pay homage to Bob Dylan. Now, there is nothing wrong with that per se. It just doesn’t appeal to me as much as other albums of his. A lot of these songs sound too similar - which when placed back to back start to get a little repetitious. A few do stand out to me - one’s I’d be more inclined to add to my music library (I already have the first two tracks off of a greatest hits collection). The others I’m likely to pass on.


Tendraftsdeep said...

I can't do it. I even Twittered w/Liz last night. I just can't get into Bruce. I have major respect, he did something right to appeal to so many people. However,in my simple opinion, he did cut three tracks that I think are incredible. But these are all for me:

"Tunnel of Love"
"Dancing in the Dark"
"Brilliant Disguise"

Maybe I will give "Nebraska" a spin.


Martin Maenza said...

Those are three great tracks. I'm a fan starting with Born In the USA but I also knew the River and Born To Run albums well. For me, some tracks are good and some are not. I think Nebraska may be a tough one - I know it was for me. Just not my preferred tempo of music.