Sunday, September 6, 2015

Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run (1975)

Bruce Springsteen's third album, Born To Run, was - and is - both an expression of disillusionment with the American dream and a celebration of the possibilities of rock and roll.  Recorded at a time of decay and stagnation in American life, it offers escape through its grandiose production and a poetic lyricism that illustrate Springsteen's world - Asbury Park, New Jersey, with its seedy beach scene and faded glory - vividly.  From the giddy excitement of "Thunder Road," the opening cut, to the mournful, Hieronymus Bosch-like industrial landscape depicted in the last number, "Jungleland," Born To Run travels through a landscape of ordinary people trying to find the joys of life in a gritty, threadbare corner of America left behind in a cynical age of diminished expectations.
Except that Springsteen doesn't let any of that limit him.  He's ready look for something better, and if there's nothing else in sight, he's willing to go to the ends of the earth to find it.  And the music certainly does, from the confident brass section of "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" and the  cacophony of "Night," which looks forward to the adventures of the evening hours, to the thrill of discovering sex and love in "She's the One," the glistening  piano and chunky guitar steeped in a heavy Bo Diddley beat.  With its expansive sound and Springsteen's brooding voice cutting through - augmented by Clarence Clemons' prevalent saxophone passages - Born To Run brings to mind a piece of dark chocolate.  It's more bitter than sweet, but very richly satisfying once you've acquired the taste.
There is also danger here; so many of Springsteen's characters get blown away in their pursuit for satisfaction, as in the allegorical fight scenes and explosions of tension in "Jungleland," along with the street toughs trying to survive in "Backstreets" and the hood trying for one big payoff in the subtle, haunting ballad "Meeting Across the River."  But the essence of Born To Run is captured by its title track, its images of teenagers hanging out on the beaches and in the amusement parks of the Jersey Shore as a parade of broken heroes try to make their escape on U.S. 9, a highway as synonymous with the faded glory of the Jersey Shore as the Turnpike is with the rest of New Jersey.  Springsteen and his girl are ready to run away and find that place where the horizons stretch far beyond the backstreets and the boardwalk.  Bruce is determined to win against overwhelming odds, and the majesty of Born To Run makes it clear that he will. 

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