Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
With all of the hubbub surrounding its arrival, you would think that The Rising, Bruce Springsteen's first studio album with the E Street Band in over 15 years, would be the consummate classic of the 21st century. After all, Springsteen's career is strewn with politics, personal beliefs and commitment. Many find solace and meaning in each lyric he utters. He doesn't speak for a generation; he speaks for the common man. The firefighters, the police officers, the rescue units and the victims of September 11th were of a breed and disposition that Springsteen's music revolves around — they are the inspiration behind The Rising. Practically every song resounds with the emotional aftermath, embracing each perspective with empathy and bewilderment. While the snappy sound of mostly mid-tempo rockers may sometimes cast an odd light on a dark theme, the hope they instill may be just what the world needs. The message is clear: life, with the passage of time, will eventually fall into place, our hearts will be healed, and the memories of those who paid the price will never be forgotten.
And what of the chiseled good hooks of the songs themselves? With the E Street Band back in the saddle, everything tends to come together with a little more finesse, sashaying in a boiling pot of optimism and retrospection. Coming from a guy who has nabbed an Oscar, a Grammy and was once married to a fashion model, the Boss' self-effacing manner and blue collar ethics put him in the driver's seat. The only difference is that his characters assuage their own dilemmas with more spirit than your average Joe. The fortitude and wallop of "Lonesome Day" spins the consequences of a bad situation, while the steadfast heroics of "Into The Fire" could make believers of even the most profound of dissidents. The man is taking a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood, throwing out kisses for good luck and redemption. And from "The Nothing Man" ("Darlin' give me your kiss/Only understand/I am, the nothing man") to "Empty Sky" ("I want a kiss from your lips/I want an eye for an eye/I woke up this morning to an empty sky") to "The Fuse" ("Devil's on the horizon line/Your kiss and I'm alive"), it's as if Springsteen truly believes the scars of 9/11 can be sealed with a kiss. Perhaps he's on to something.
The album's most poignant moment occurs during "You're Missing," where the singer magically captures the quiet suffering that comes with the loss of a loved one in a simple and pleasant melody, and "Paradise," a smooth ballad from the perspective of a suicide bomber. In between, the title track rises to the occasion with the anthem-like sanguinity of previous title tracks ("Born To Run" And "Born In The U.S.A." come to mind). The version "My City Of Ruin" lacks the passion it packed when Springsteen and the E Streeters performed it on the America: A Tribute To Heroes telethon, but it finishes off the album with brazen style. Produced by Brendon O'Brien, who has explored the studio space with the likes of Pearl Jam, The Rising has a rockier edge than anything Springsteen has done in over 10 years. With the E Street Band in his corner — the aura is intensified by a notch or two. In other words, the cause simply ignites the effect.
~ Shawn Perry