Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Bruce Springsteen – We Take Care of Our Own



Edward Okulicz: Bruce returns, not to the rousing, but beautifully ironic and inward-looking anthemics of “Born In The U.S.A.” but to a moment when his voice became that little bit too gruff to soar (I’m thinking this started at “Hungry Heart”) and lead the march. The icky trills and curlicues drain the power of the sentiment, because it’s got chest-beating but to no particular bombast or bluster. Bruce even sounds like he knows the lyrics are gauche (and if you don’t, in the video they’re pasted awkwardly on-screen). Maybe this is music for Democrats to woo Ron Paul supporters with.

Brad Shoup: I’m 85 per cent sure the song’s about Arcade Fire winning the best-album Grammy. Regardless, there’s a natural poignance in the Boss asking “Where’s the work that’ll set my hands, my soul free?” Judging by the track, his current occupation is “curator”. He’d have done well not to choose the road/good intentions contrast. Whether played by Springsteen or producer Ron Aniello, the delicate rhythm-guitar triplets are a winningly modest sonic touch; they certainly trump the AM Gold sawing from the New York String Section. As for my score, it’s heavily dependent on the title sentence being bitterly sarcastic, rather than an easy mark for 1 per cent jokes. Forty-six million poor in your America, Bruce. Please tell me you’re not just longing for a bygone world in which we all smiled on the streets.

Pete Baran: This feels like the first balls out rock song Bruce has released in about twenty years, and its quite clear that he is happy to lean on all the good and bad that was “Born In The USA.” Like BITUSA he has built a self-referential satire dressed in a breast beating patriotic jeans and t-shirt combo. It looks a little embarrassing on Grandad but no-one else is allowed to make this kind of song anymore. Though it lacks the sax break it would have had twenty-five years ago, and is more perfunctory on repeat listens, it is a nice short in the arm to hear this Springsteen again.

John Seroff: Bruce’s tongue-in-cheek jingoism has always been, as dog whistles go, pitched a bit low for my tastes. Not that it was never really meant for me in the first place; there’s a generation gap, a deviation in our traditions. Springsteen still believes that his machine kills fascists; I just haven’t much use for even the most well meaning of grizzled white guys with guitars these days. “Take Care” has its sinews lined up proper and the growls and strings ricochet off one another well enough, but the whole enterprise feels stuck on a metaphoric and rhythmic treadmill. I will continue to respectfully subscribe to your newsletter, sir; it’s just that they are starting to pile up around the house.

Alfred Soto: The road of good intentions isn’t the only thing that’s dry as a bone, and speaking of, he throws one for fans who in their hearts of stone think Springsteen has never written an explicitly political song. Never mind “Badlands” and “Born in the U.S.A” — what is “Thunder Road” if not the embrace of heterosexual manhood as defined by early sixties radio? In this song nothing coheres except Springsteen’s belief in his own power to draw attention with an electric rhythm chug and synth hook. Please let Arcade Fire handle the windy generalities from now on.

Jer Fairall: Rousing, jingoistic and broadly sentimental: exactly the kind of anthem that Ronald Reagan once conveniently mistook “Born In The U.S.A.” for. That today’s Reaganites would undoubtedly hear these words as Commie talk is sad on too many levels to count.

Josh Langhoff: Though this song uses “Born In the USA”-style lyrical contrasts, anthem vs. desperation, its irony is more expansive; it makes “Born” sound like a petulant reader comment. For the first two choruses Springsteen spits in disgust at anyone who considers shotgun shacks and the Superdome adequate expressions of “care”. But even if, like me, you hear the third iteration of the chorus as hopeful — Springsteen longing to transform America VIA SONG into a place that really does take care of our own — the slogan “We Take Care of Our Own” is a pretty low bar. As Rick Santorum could tell you, even the tax collectors and pagans do as much. Taking care of your enemies — the people who aren’t “productive members of society”, those who are “living in a ghetto”, “illegals” having “anchor babies”, radical secular Socialist Muslims, or whoever — THAT’S morality. Springsteen knows this. He has written this song as a trap for politicians. Anyone who claims it as their own is automatically exposed as a moral fraud. May Obama be smart enough to stick with Brooks & Dunn.

Michaela Drapes: I’m going to avoid lingering on the thought that for all of this track’s traditional, populist Boss-ness, it kind of sounds like a Neil Diamond/Arcade Fire collaboration. Outside of that, I really like this as a bookend to “The Rising” — Bruce gently reminds that perhaps we, America, now that we’re long past national crisis mode, should collectively get our shit together and stop being assholes to each other already. Not sure any of us are in a place to hear the message, but glad someone’s this committed to making us at least listen.

Jonathan Bogart: So gloriously non-specific that the mythical swing voter could hear it as either a call for universal healthcare or a stiff-necked rejection of government handouts. What concerns me most is that Bruce seems to have forgotten that what made his Born to Run period so thrilling was that he left room to breath in between the rushing climaxes.

One Response to “Bruce Springsteen – We Take Care of Our Own”

  1. Uh-oh, Obama just played this. THEN he played Brooks & Dunn.