Bruce Springsteen: Working on a Dream

Music Reviews Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen: Working on a Dream

Bruce Springsteen

Dream Comes True

By Steve LaBate

Bruce Springsteen’s latest is a grab bag of everything we’ve come to love about The Boss—anthemic rock, exhausted Americana, raunchy blues shuffles, orchestral ballads, testifying gospel rave-ups and gripping lyrical narratives about working-class America. Springsteen isn’t concerned with shedding old skin like a Wilco or a Radiohead; he’d rather explore familiar terrain with a fine-toothed comb, carefully excavating every nook and cranny of the universe he’s created. The title Working on a Dream speaks to the four decades he’s spent fine-tuning this world—essentially his life’s work—and to the characters in many of his songs, for whom overnight success is as foreign as the country to which their factory jobs were outsourced; unsung heroes who toil painstakingly toward small rewards, realizing hard luck is better than no luck at all. The album comes to fruition on final track “The Wrestler,” the tale of a grizzled survivor who’s continually beat down by life but—like Tim Robbins’ Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption—gets up each time to chip away at the wall between him and his dreams.

Nightmare on E Street
By Andy Whitman


With Working on a Dream, Bruce Springsteen taps into his inner Roy Orbison. The songs are big and bloated, full of the overproduced, nearly hyperventilating melodramas Orbison captured so well. But there are two problems. First, Bruce Springsteen can’t croon to save his life, and he sounds like a sumo wrestler doing laughable karaoke to “Only the Lonely.” Second, this is the weakest batch of songs Springsteen has ever written, sadly lacking in melody and hooks and lowlighted by “Queen of the Supermarket,” an absurdly overwrought wall-of-sound anthem in which our hero finds true love behind the cash register. It’s enough to suggest that he has never gone shopping in his life. There are limp approximations of the E Street swagger throughout, and when Bruce takes chances, as he does on spaghetti-Western tall tale “Outlaw Pete,” he falls flat. Forget the dream. Next time, Boss, how about working on the songs?

Listen to tracks from Working on a Dream on Bruce Springsteen’s MySpace page.

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