Grittier-than-normal vocals and gut-punching lyrics are paired with a sonic palette that, not surprisingly, draws from multiple corners of the American songbook.
Like a working man, Bruce Springsteen's Wrecking Ball wears its heart on its blue-collar sleeve—but also like a working man, it swings a heavy hammer. Gone is the optimism that lines many of the tracks on Springsteen's last effort, Working on a Dream (2009). In its place are characters treading at the edge of American abyss in the face of growing disparity between the rich and poor. At age 62, this may, in fact, be the most important chapter in Springsteen's evolving discography and his most direct album since 1982’s Nebraska.
Grittier-than-normal vocals and gut-punching lyrics are paired with a sonic palette that, not surprisingly, draws from multiple corners of the American songbook. Wrecking Ball is a tapestry of folk, gospel, rock, hip hop, Celtic, and country infusions all threaded together with a homecoming of sorts for Springsteen as he returns to address the larger issues facing the country. The opening track, “We Take Care of Our Own,” borrows from the “Born in the USA” playbook and is heard as an anthem, but listened to as something quite different, setting the stage for an album in which Springsteen puts the “robber barons” and Wall Street fat cats square in the crosshairs.
From there he embarks on a tour of an economically depressed American landscape that sways back and forth between fanfare and lamentation. “Jack of all Trades” is a slow ballad tinged with horns and a Tom Morello solo, while “Death to my Hometown,” is an Irish folk foot-stomper that feels as if its an offspring of Springsteen's work from 2006's We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions or something you'd hear on a Dropkick Murphys album. The title track then steers the album into a search for redemption with the acknowledgment that “hard times come and hard times go”—they always have and always will. The album is not without a few head-scratchers, though. “You've Got It” has the feel of a song that missed the cut on Born in the USA and, coincidentally, marks the only departure from Wrecking Ball's core themes. Springsteen also boldly employs a rap on “Rocky Ground” that comes across as being included solely for the sake of having a rap on the album.
Wrecking Ball roars back with “Land of Hopes and Dreams,” which finally gets the studio treatment after making regular appearances in live shows since 1999 and features that familiar soaring saxophone from the late Clarence Clemons. Appropriately enough, this elevates the album further into a spiritual realm. It closes in a peculiar, yet optimistic fashion with “We are Alive” that uses the riff from Johnny Cash's “Ring of Fire.” The blissful whistling heard in this track might seem a little out of place in a scene where the dead talk among themselves, but signifies that though death is inevitable, it's not the end—“only our bodies that betray us in the end.” A fitting end to Springsteen's first studio album since the loss of Clemons of whom he eulogized: “Clarence doesn’t leave the E Street Band when he dies. He leaves when we die.”
Wrecking Ball is a tour de force that chronicles the modern American way of life. It snorts fire in the right areas and is on par with Springsteen's post-9/11 The Rising (2002) and the underrated Magic (2007). Typical of a Springsteen album, the music will undoubtedly translate well to arenas and stadiums on the E Street Band's upcoming world tour.—Nick Ireland
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
This full-amp-stack-in-a-box pedal brings a new flavor to the Guitar Legend Tone Series of pedals, Missing Link Audio’s flagship product line.
Adding to the company’s line of premium-quality effects pedals, Missing Link Audio has unleashed the new AC/Overdrive pedal. This full-amp-stack-in-a-box pedal – the only Angus & Malcom all-in-one stompbox on the market – brings a new flavor to the Guitar Legend Tone Series of pedals, Missing Link Audio’s flagship product line.
The AC/OD layout has three knobs to control Volume, Gain and Tone. That user-friendly format is perfect for quickly getting your ideal tone, and it also offers a ton of versatility. MLA’s new AC/OD absolutely nails the Angus tone from the days of “High Voltage” to "Back in Black”. You can also easily dial inMalcom with the turn of a knob. The pedal covers a broad range of sonic terrain, from boost to hot overdrive to complete tube-like saturation. The pedal is designed to leave on all the time and is very touch responsive. You can get everything from fat rhythm tones to a perfect lead tone just by using your guitar’s volume knob and your right-hand attack.
- Three knobs to control Volume, Gain and Tone
- Die-cast aluminum cases for gig-worthy durability
- Limited lifetime warranty
- True bypass on/off switch
- 9-volt DC input
- Made in the USA
MLA Pedals AC/OD - Music & Demo by A. Barrero
Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
Patented Railhammer Pickups take passive guitar pickups to a new level with rails under the wound strings lead to tighter lows, and poles under the plain strings offer fatter heights. With increased clarity, the passive pickup’s tone is never sterile.
Railhammer Billy Corgan Signature Z-One Pickup Demo
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.
Designed for utmost comfort and performance, the Vertigo Ultra Bass is Mono’s answer to those who seek the ultimate gigging experience.
Complete with a range of game-changing design features, such as the patent-pending attachable FREERIDE Wheel System, premium water-resistant and reflective materials, shockproof shell structure and improved ergonomic features, the Vertigo Ultra Bass takes gear protection to the next level.
The Vertigo Ultra Bass features:
- Patent-pending FREERIDE Wheel System that allows for wheels to be attached on the case in no time, giving you the option to travel with it seamlessly
- Upgraded materials, including a water-resistant 1680D Ballistic Nylon outer shell, plush inner lining and new reflective trim for maximum backstage and night visibility
- Enhanced protection with a shockproof shell structure and heavy-duty water-resistant YKK zippers for protection from the elements
- Improved ergonomics and functionality including added back support and load-lifting detachable shoulder straps with side release buckles
- Flexible storage options with added space for touring essentials