One of the few superstar artists left who still makes music that matters, Bruce Springsteen offers a powerful, nuanced slice of poetic rock ’n’ roll on his new single “We Take Care of Our Own.”
Propulsive drums push the fist-pumping melody.
Then there’s a chorus that could easily be mistaken for simple jingoism.
“Wherever this flag is flown,” Springsteen sings. “We take care of our own.”
It’s easy to get lost in the inviting mix of potent percussion, cutting modern guitar, somber keyboards and rich strings -- but pay attention to the verses.
There’s a darkness on the edge of each line.
“From Chicago to New Orleans to the muscle to the bone / From the shotgun shack to the Superdome / There ain’t no help, the cavalry stayed home / There ain’t no one hearing the bugle blown.”
The contrast between bleak verse and patriotic chorus, between cheery tempo and somber message was most famously used by The Boss on the title track to his mega-selling 1984 album “Born in the U.S.A.”
Sure, the chorus rang out like a new national anthem, but the verses spoke to one of this country’s greatest blemishes:
“I had a brother at Khe Sanh, fighting off the Viet Cong / They’re still there, he’s all gone.”
Springsteen has given numerous interviews over the years about “Born in the U.S.A.,” which he has described as being a song about a man feeling isolated from his family, society and his government.
“We Take Care of Our Own” came out as a downloadable single Thursday along with a video posted on Springsteen’s official website, YouTube and just about anywhere else fans of the Boss might be on the Internet.
It’s a simple video of mostly grainy black and white photos of Springsteen playing his guitar.
The artist clearly wants his words read -- the lyrics scroll across the center of the frame.
Thursday also marked the announcement of Springsteen’s new album “Wrecking Ball” and its March 6 release date.
This will be Springsteen’s first record of new material since his No. 1 album “Working on a Dream” came out three years ago.
“Bruce has dug down as deep as he can to come up with this vision of modern life,” reads a message by long-time manager Jon Landau, posted on Springsteen’s website. “The lyrics tell a story you can’t hear anywhere else and the music is his most innovative in recent years.
“The writing is some of the best of his career and both veteran fans and those who are new to Bruce will find much to love on ‘Wrecking Ball.’”
Here’s hoping other “Wrecking Ball” titles such as “Death to my Hometown,” “Easy Money” and “This Depression” pack a similar wallop.
In times like these we need songs of substance, songs that stir our spirits, making us think about the world in which we live.
And maybe even do something to improve it.
Or at least keep us from repeating past mistakes.
Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Visit heraldbuzzworthy.blogspot.com.