It's a little early to do another holiday gift guide for this year, but once you see what I recently received, you'll understand why I had to share (and slightly brag) in late October. Given to me by infrequent blog contributor and creator of the creator of the blog - my mom - we have a set of four Bruce Springsteen coasters!
Each coaster is adorned with an iconic Springsteen album cover, starting with his debut album and ending with 1984's Born In The USA. While one may complain about the omission of Darkness On The Edge of Town, I'd counter by saying your complaining over something so trivial is why we can't have nice things.
While I've broken down these albums in every conceivable way, let's rethink the way we see these albums. And, by that, I mean: what types of beverages would these albums best support?
Greetings From Asbury Park: With this postcard picture, I can't help but think of summer vacations. Therefore, a summer-y drink is the clear choice for this coaster. Putting hot cocoa on this coaster would be a grave sin.
Recommended Drinks: Lemonade, Margaritas, Bud Light Lime, Anything That Has An Umbrella In It
Born To Run: This is the piece-de-resistance of the coaster set. You aren't going to just put any old drink on this; it has to be a SPECIAL drink. This is the coaster you bust out when the pope comes to town.
Recommended Drinks: Fancy Wine, Fancy Beer, Fancy Whiskey, That Bottle Of Champagne You've Been Saving To Open When The Mets Win The World Series
The River: Boy, Bruce does not look good on this cover, and the coaster adds to his misery by punching a hole right through his nose. This is the coaster you use after a long night of partying. Put your hangover cure on this coaster, and every time you lift your drink up, you see Bruce staring back at you, with no judgement in his eyes. He's been there, man.
Recommended Drinks: Water, Diet Coke, Smoothies, Hair Of The Dog
Born In The USA: Don't be distracted by that awkwardly placed hole. This is a pure-American coaster, and the drinks it supports will encapsulate the country - freedom, freedom, eagles, baseball, and freedom.
Recommended Drinks: Cheap American Beer, Whole Milk
Unfortunately, it appears this particular set of coasters is difficult to find for sale on the Internet, so I apologize if I got you excited for nothing. However, googling "Bruce Springsteen Coaster" does bring up other coaster options (as well as lyrics for "Spirit In The Night"). So, if you know a Springsteen fan with rings on his coffee table, consider your Christmas shopping done early.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Saturday, October 17, 2015
Today marks the 35th anniversary of The River. Sure, 35 years isn't quite the iconic number you want to celebrate (unlike, say, 30 years or 40 years). However, it seemed as good a time as any to take a dive into this massive double album.
The River is a unique specimen in Springsteen lore. It was Springsteen's first and only double-album release, which, in itself, was a curious decision. Furthermore, it produced his first top ten single, "Hungry Heart", which strangely enough was sped up to make it sound less like Springsteen was singing it. The songs range the entire emotional spectrum: one minute, you are listening to a heart-wrenching tale of the working poor, the next, you are in the barroom listening to drunken catcalls like "Ooh ooh, I got a crush on you!" There's a lot to digest, which is why you'll hear many Springsteen fans profess to love the album, but very few claiming that it is their all-time favorite.
This epic journey begins with a declaration that "You've been hurt and you're all cried out." It's an important mission statement for the album, as the music acknowledges you have experienced pain, and you are looking for consolation ("Two Hearts" is a good companion piece to "The Ties That Bind", as it has many similar themes and lyrics). With The River, the "all over" nature of the songs may be about the process of getting through pain - either through somber reflection ("The River"), humor ("Sherry Darling"), self-affirmation ("I'm a Rocker"), or pure dedication to love ("Drive All Night").
Another theme in The River is that of escape. Throughout the songs, people have "packed their bags", "went out walking", "gone out for rides and never went back", stolen cars, etc. However, these characters don't find redemption, as they either end up in the same place, or find a whole new set of problems awaiting them. They are no longer pulling out of here to win - they are pulling out of here because there's nothing better to do.
That being said, let's look at the music. Upon going to this review, I wasn't sure how these songs were ordered - I'm a product of the iPod shuffle generation. However, listening to it in order, you won't find many better albums than the first album of The River. You have the aforementioned "The Ties That Bind" leading the record off, a couple of just pure classic rock songs ("Jackson Cage", "Out In The Street"), and a few songs that show Springsteen's lighter side ("Sherry Darling", "You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)". It also contains the sped-up "Hungry Heart" - which, while many fans dismiss in preference of the live version (raises hand), can't be overlooked in its significance, as it helped bring Bruce's popularity to a new level. The album ends with "The River", one of Springsteen's all-time classic songs (ranking number 8 in a recent fan poll, the highest of any song on the album). In Bruce's tradition, he ends the album with an emotional gut-punch, as seen before with Born To Run/"Jungleland" and Darkness On The Edge of Town/title track. From start to finish, The River part one is among the strongest work Springsteen has done.
However, The River part two is much murkier. Missing are the many of the classic rock hits, as we receive many slow ballads ("Fade Away", "Drive All Night") followed by goofy songs with cocky narrators ("Ramrod", "I'm a Rocker"). While many are enjoyable on their own, it makes for very jarring listening experience, as you can go from getting shot between the eyes to cruising in a Cadillac. "The Price You Pay" is my personal favorite from this side - while many songs on this side are either dark or light, this achieves a nice balance. "The Price You Pay" is slow, but not plodding, and the lyrics are emotional, but not maudlin. And, while I'll always prefer the Tracks version of "Stolen Car", the experimental nature of The River's version of the song has grown on me, and I appreciate Springsteen taking a chance with his music on a major release on this, rather than just going with safe piano ballad.
Overall, I'd give the first half of The River 5/5 stars, while the second half earns a 3/5. Call it a 4/5 for the whole album, if you must. So, if you have an hour and a half to kill today, I'd recommend giving this album another spin. While it may be a little over the place musically, thematically it's one of Springsteen's strongest, and you may find a song that will connect to whatever problems that have been a part of your life.
Friday, October 16, 2015
Start saving your money, boys and girls! Because, coming December 4th, you'll have to rush to Amazon and pick yourself up a new River box set. Officially called The Ties That Bind: The River Collection, and coinciding with the 35th anniversary of The River, the set contains 4 CDs, 3 DVDs, and a new coffee table book. As with these recent box sets, we are promised new unreleased songs, concert performances, and photographs. As an additional teaser, they've released "Meet Me In The City", a catchy rocker never previously released:
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Tearing yet another page from the "We'll write about anything" folder, today's post spotlights Men of Wrath, a 2014 comic book written by Jason Aaron, with art by Ron Garney. Picking up the series on a whim, I found myself very surprised to be greeted with the above quote, found on the inside cover for the first issue. These brutal lyrics set the tone for the book, which covers the Rath family, and the inescapable violence that haunts their lives. Interestingly enough, "The New Timer" is about a man working various jobs, including picking peaches, something Tom Joad did in The Grapes of Wrath (creating a connection back to the comic's title).
Admittedly, "The New Timer" is not in my general Springsteen rotation. In fact, I rarely find myself listening to The Ghost of Tom Joad at all (and I doubt I'm alone in this). With the 20th anniversary of the album coming up next month, perhaps it is worth going back to for another listen.