la pièce de résistance

Bruce Springsteen - Greatest Hits


Though I didn't want to review Greatest Hits or Best Of or The Essential or whatever-those-things-are-called-today albums, regarding Bruce Springsteen, I really couldn't decide which single album to discuss - and in the hope that at least someone recognizes a few of the most well-known songs, I picked Springsteen's "Greatest Hits", first published in 1995.

For over three decades, Springsteen has managed to develop his distinguishable sound into something unique and often copied. Epic stories of underclass underdogs, youth without perspective, the urge to break free, and lateron somewhat more satisfied and content songs earned him the reputations of America's Songwriter.

Although there are some songs missing on this "Greatest Hits" compilation (well, they would have been included, I think, if it had been a Best Of) like "Darkness On The Edge Of Town", "I'm On Fire" or "Prove It All Night", this is in my opinion an excellent starting-off if you want to get familiar with Springsteen.

What better start for an album than "Born To Run"? I honestly couldn't imagine one. Teenage yearning and devil-may-care-attitude packed in a thick layer of instruments and topped with the longing voice of Springsteen, it manages to convey a credible image of the frustration and anger of a youth wasted in a small town full of losers. "I wanna die with you, Wendy, on the streets tonight / In an everlasting kiss" - with everyone else it would have sounded cheesy, but in this case you understand that the song is an teenager's perspective.

My personal favourite is the next song, "Thunder Road". Similar topic, though musically extensively different. Starting with only piano and harmonica, it features Springsteen describing a girl dancing on her front porch with Roy Orbison playing on the radio, and the narrator tries to convince her to just climb in his car and flee from this wasted town. The sweet piano combined with the Boss's Tele create the perfect underlay for the storytelling. Clemons' sax solo at the end is just rousing.

The marching sound of "Badlands" pumps the song into an energy-loaded piece of music. Telling of undestroyable, firm hope in the possibilty of a better life, this is a piece of music in my eyes best described as "strong".

Voted one of the most depressing songs in pop history, "The River" is not exactly a happy tune, in fact. Telling the story of a young couple practically forced to get married because of her pregnancy, the sad story of their lives can really bring you down. The harmonica plays a heart-breaking tune as you can imagine the river the couple used to connect their passion and love to dry up. This will fucking kill you if you're sensitive to stuff like that.

To prevent any killing related to this album, the next song's "Hungry Heart". The overall mood is as far away way from The River's as you can possibly imagine, it is light and free and easy-going. Piano, sax and a light background choire towards the end accentuate the story of a man who leaves everything behind to just find something new. "Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack / I went out for a ride and I never went back / Like a river that don't know where it's flowing / I took a wrong turn and I just kept going".

"Atlantic City", recorded on a 4-Track in Springsteen's home, is one of the acoustic songs of the disillusioned album "Nebraska". It's just voice, guitar, harmonica, and a slight splinter of hope in an otherwise grim story of a man who lost everything and is now heading for the lights of the cheap man's version of Vegas.

Now "Dancing In The Dark" makes a difference again. Pounding drums and a distinctive synth in an up-tempo song (in relation) make this one an all-time favourite in live shows, narrating about a man yearning to break free of his fears and doubts.

I don't think you have to waste too many words on "Born In The USA", as most people might recognize that song even if they've never actually heard the name "Springsteen". But for those who still believe this one could be the subistitue for "The Star Spangled Banner": It's ironic, it's sober, and it does not glorify the states at all. "Born down in a dead man's town" - how on earth could you mistake the song for a hymn on the USA with that opening line?

"My Hometown" is again a calm song. Most prominent is the synth, second to voice, of course. The narrator's life in his hometown is described from childhood on, as he drives through town on his daddy's lap, only to experience racial troubles in his youth and the downfall of economy in his adolescence. In the end the roles are switched, and he takes his own son on a tour through town, telling him "Take a good look around, this is your hometown", in spite of the miserable state of it.

Technically being in my own "Glory Days" right now, I haven't had the experience that the narrator tells about yet. He walks around in his hometown, meeting people he used to know only to end up talking about their highschool days and the past in general. Simple rock song, nice and straight-forward.

"Brilliant Disguise" describes the relationship of a couple that obviously has been together a long time. Still, the seem to mistrust each other, playing their respective role, with certain hints that their is trouble underneath - "I wanna know if it's you I don't trust / 'Cause I damn sure don't trust myself".

"Human Touch" is in my opinion a relatively unimposing song, despite a nice beat and guitars. Actually - it's one of the very few songs on this record that I don't know the words of by heart. Bad sign, Mr. S.

You want something positive? Check out "Better Days". Almost none of Springsteen's so often mentioned heavy and depressing thoughts, but instead - hope, satisfaction, contentment. Wow. Strong singing, loud drums, little female background singing - nice variety.

So, how many of you have cried at the sight of AIDS-ridden Tom Hanks trying to get his damn justice in "Philadelphia"? Probably none. At least I fucking watched it. Well, whatever, this is the song that won the Oscar. "Streets Of Philadelphia". Just one single drum beat, synth, and the Boss's sad voice. He just can't become cheesy, no matter what. 

You know what? I can't claim to really understand the meaning of "Secret Garden", so I'll leave out anything about topicnstuffyknowwhmsayin. It's a really slow, quiet song. Must be the lowest drums I've ever heard in a song, and again nothing else but voice and synth added to that. I really like the feel of it, although I don't get the meaning. Help me out. Ah, what am I saying, of the four or five people reading this approximately, hm, let's guess, none have ever heard the fucking song. So just ignore me. Yeah, that might be the best.

"Murder Incorporated" is a straight rocker again. The narrator advices you to take good care of yourself, for in this town there's danger behind every corner. I think it's actually about a mix of paranoia and mafia, but who knows. Nice sax solo fading into guitar.

Oh well, a quiet song for a change. "Blood Brothers" features only the Boss's voice and the Boss's guitar. And some keys. And harmonica. But mostly voice and guitar. Ha, fuck that, drums in the end. I'm tired out of my mind. Am I actually spelling this shit correctly or does it have to be The Boss'? Gee, who cares. So, the song's about some childhood friends who alienate over the years.

Do you notice the change in style throughout the text? I do. Not to worry, the next one's the last.

"This Hard Land" is a slight rocker about being free. Basically.

There's still the rating to care about, but I'll keep it short. I'll motherfuckin' rate it (freedom of speech kicks fucking ass)

12 / 10.

"Oh man, you can't rate it more than ten, ten's max, how stupid are you"?

Dude, it's just a metaphor. The album is over-the-fucking-top. Too good to be rated, at least in my shallow opinion. That's why it's fucking twelve out of ten. You need to buy this album. You won't fuckin' regret it, or someone (not me) will give you back your money.

Goodnight, suckers, I gotta go to bed. 



3.3.09 12:36

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