Life doesn’t get any easier for Bruce Springsteen.
His man is in the White House, he has the adoration of millions and has spent decades getting “paid a king’s ransom for doin’ what comes naturally,” as he once sang. Yet Springsteen is still enraged.
“Wrecking Ball,” his latest CD, is a sign that Springsteen, at 62, along with rock and roll generally, is getting real attitude again.
The Boss forgets he’s a multimillionaire and sees himself odd-jobbing, clearing drains and mowing lawns in “Jack of All Trades.” He complains that “the banker man grows fat, working man grows thin/ it’s happened before and it will happen again.” His blue-collar rock is loaded with references to crushed American dreams, hard times, shackled workers and depression.
After a decade of quieter tunes, Springsteen is back to blasting rock with a big band that has more than a hint of Arcade Fire about it. Standouts are “We Take Care of Our Own” and the title track, written in 2009 for the old Giants Stadium.
It’s not all great. I have grown weary of listening to Bruce addressing his betters as “mister,” singing about his hometown and rhyming funny, sunny and honey on the way to a title like “Easy Money.”
The liner notes include a touching reference to the late saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who features on two tracks. “Clarence doesn’t leave the E Street Band when he dies,” Springsteen writes. “He leaves when we die.”
Lippy Irish singer Sinead O’Connor is still angry about everything.
In the past year, she advertised for a boyfriend, married one and attempted suicide. Now she is channeling her passion productively. “How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?” is a strong return to accessible form after albums exploring traditional music and more.
“Take Off Your Shoes” is a rant about the Vatican’s oversight of child abuse in the Irish church. “I Had a Baby” is about parental neglect (O’Connor, 45, herself has four children by four different men). She adds one cover version, John Grant’s “Queen of Denmark,” which she makes her own, from the opening lines “I wanted to change the world, but I couldn’t even change my underwear.”
I only got around to “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” soundtrack after seeing the movie, and it’s oddly good.
It opens with Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs flirting with Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” -- more rock aggression that fits the movie’s title character -- and signs off with Bryan Ferry’s “Is Your Love Strong Enough” performed by How to Destroy Angels. In between these tracks is a three-hour soundscape fashioned by Oscar winners Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor. This has some distorted grungy guitar, though little of the latter’s Nine Inch Nails attack. It’s closer to Brian Eno ambiance, with washes of glacial synthesizer.
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Springsteen is on Columbia, with “Wrecking Ball” priced at $9.99 or $12.99 for an edition with two bonus tracks. O’Connor is on One Little Indian priced $9.99 and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” box set is about $14. Download fees vary across services. Information: http://brucespringsteen.net, http://www.sinead-oconnor.com/ and http://www.dragontattoo.com.
(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)