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Monday, March 12, 2012


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zombie rotten mcdonald

I came to Springsteen late, but am catching up.

What do you think of the new album?


I like it very, very much. I'm not convinced it's his finest album in 30 years, as some of my non-insane fellow Bruce fans think, but to use Rolling Stone's venerable rating system, it's at least 4 stars, I think. I love that he's still trying new stuff musically and pushing himself lyrically. And, of course, he and I are very much in sync philosophically, so that works for me as well. (No coincidence: his music was a formative influence on me, and still is.)

As I've written several times, most of the greatest rock and roll has been created by Angry Young Men, pace Joni Mitchell and Patti Smith and Chrissie Hynde, or at least for the first 30 years that was the case. And when most of those Angry Young Men hit middle age, something happened. They ran dry or got complacent or just no one cared anymore. Only Dylan and Neil Young have done what Springsteen is doing, which is to try to bring the passion he had back then but marry it to an advanced wisdom, or at least life experience, and greater skill.

zombie rotten mcdonald

I feel the same way about Paul Westerberg, actually, much as I like his solo stuff, I keep waiting for another Tim or another Let it Be.

Now you've got me thinking a bit... Who else do I like that has aged well? I will inevitably start yammering about the Mekons in this regard, but....I would say Elvis Costello, although his later work maybe never reached the heights. His TV show was a hoot though. Maybe Joe Strummer would have gotten there, I loved his work with the Mescaleros, but he died so young. How about Robert Plant? His Band of Joy album was really good, but I am partial cuz I had front row seats on the tour. Tom Petty, maybe?


Westerberg's an interesting case. He's so talented and so insightful, that he really could have achieved brilliance in his solo career if he'd continued growing. Instead, he had moments of brilliance surrounded by filler. But his filler with the 'Mats had Bob Stinson going nuts and one of the all time great rhythm section and even their filler was special and fun. When Paul put out filler on his solo albums, the studio musicians just made it feel soulless. Later, he seemed to get back on track, but I kinda feel like he went a little too far the other way, going just a bit too tossed-off and lo-fi. I still love 'im, of course.

Bob Dylan and Neil Young are the two people who seem to have kept pushing the hardest. Bob doesn't put out quite enough stuff, but he's on the never-ending tour, while Neil puts out too much stuff. Of course, that's one of the things that makes Neil Neil, right? That he's willing to swing for the fences every time, no matter what, except that sometimes he'll choose a 9-iron rather than a Louisville Slugger and sometimes a hockey stick and sometimes a halibut.

I haven't loved a whole lot of Robert Plant's solo career, other than his work with Alison Krauss, but I do love how he's kept trying new stuff and refusing to revisit Led Zeppelin much. A bold move.

The one who bums me out is Pete Townshend. Given how well he chronicled his mid-life crisis on Who By Numbers, I think he'd have done an incredible job of observing and reporting what it was like to grow older and old as a rock star. I'm really sorry he passed up that opportunity.

zombie rotten mcdonald

I had a friend who memorably said, after hearing one of the latter day Who albums "Maybe we should send Townshend some booze" (after he had stopped drinking, of course).

I have liked Plant's solo stuff, but the band he put together for the Band of Joy tour was just STELLAR. And he spent a fair amount of time hanging back and letting them work, smiling in pleasure all the while. Class. Even the Zep stuff they did was re-cast and manipulated a fair bit.

Saw Neil Young and Crazy Horse a while back, Social D and Sonic Youth (two of my favorites) opening up. It was a NOISY night.


In the mid-90s, when Springsteen seemed to be sort of at a loss, I had a dream of him recording and touring using Sonic Youth as his backing band, the way Warren Zevon did with REM and Neil Young did with Pearl Jam. Still think that would have been magical. Or maybe a disaster. But I'd have been okay with that, too.

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