The Bruce Springsteen album Working on A Dream is getting roundly ripped for being rushed and lyrically vapid, and also earning some glowing reviews that focus on the well-executed pop/rock sonic departure and commend him for not using his platform to perform a soundtrack to the Obama juggernaut.
Here’s what it really is: Working on a Dream actually allows us a new way to listen to a Springsteen album. Is rocks and pops like nothing he has made. Clear and undone of the muddy Brendan O’Brien production on Magic, it positively gleams. The band shines, even if much of it was overdubbed after a core group of Bruce, pianist Roy Bitten, drummer Max Weinberg and bassist Gary Tallent cut the basic tracks. But it moves me. And I wasn’t trying to like it, anymore than I was trying to hate it. I was just listening.
There are hooks and shining chord changes and plenty to make it as interesting — in a spiritually musical sense — as any music coming from any artist.
Lyrically, I’ll agree with those who say the gut-wreching, subtle universal truths revealed by Bruce are fewer than on, say, Darkness on the Edge of Town. Yet it feels like a record (and I will periodically still use the term “record” to refer to albums. I won’t however, say eight-track) that will grow, peeling back to reveal more good tracks than bad with repeated listens. As I write about the latest Old Crow Medicine Show album, Tennessee Pusher, the best albums are never just a sugar buzz, though need enough instant gratification out of the case to warrant a deeper dive.
Bruce has something good here. So I will continue to dive in. More listens will tell me if this one is a masterpiece hidden by those who bemoan because of what it is (different), or if it is really just a 2009 version of Human Touch (shiny and empty). I’ve been wrong before. But my gut is saying interesting and worth the time to get to know it
I’ve been right before too.