Wednesday, September 8, 2010

379. Greetings from Asbury Park. Dylan+Thesaurus+Dictionary = this.

Album: Greetings from Asbury Park
Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Year: 1973
Genre: Rock

Tracks

  1. Blinded by the Light
  2. Growin' Up
  3. Mary Queen of Arkansas
  4. Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?
  5. Lost in the Flood
  6. The Angel
  7. For You
  8. Spirit in the Night
  9. It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City


Greetings From Asbury Park is the debut album by Bruce "The Boss" Springsteen, who was elected CEO of the rock world in the eighties but retired at the end of the decade and has been content in the casual workforce ever since. Regular readers might recall my review of an earlier Springsteen album in which I admitted I didn't really understand the attraction in Bruce or the E-street band. I said then that I was hoping future albums might make me realize what the joys of Bruce-worship are. I'm sorry to say that a full four listens to Greetings hasn't turned me into a Springsteenager, quite the opposite in fact.

The problem is the opening song which you're no doubt familiar with but probably not in this form. Bruce's debut album track (and first single) was the insanely irritating and gratingly annoying Blinded by the Light. A song that I can barely stand writing about let alone listening to. I've got no way of knowing but I think my brain latches onto tunes more than most and songs get stuck in my head like a rat in a trap more than they do for everyone else. Songs with lines that seem to repeat endlessly are the bane of my existence and all it takes is for the title to be mentioned and my dickhead of a brain will torment me for the rest of the day by singing it incessantly in my subconscious. There are several songs in this countdown so far that I'd classify as torture songs- The Cisco kid by Earth Wind and Fire, Rikki Don't Lose That Number by Steely Dan, Poor Little Beggar Girl by Richard and Linda Thompson and now Blinded By The Light. If you tied me to a chair and played these tracks on a loop I would crack about 30 seconds into the first song. I'd confess to murders I hadn't even heard of let alone committed at the merest opening bars of Blinded.

While Bruce's version is incredibly irritating it's can't hold a candle to Manfred Mann's atrocity that topped the charts a few years later. It's almost as if Blinded is some sort of gypsy curse and the only way to rid yourself of it is to pass it on. The Manfred's heard it in 1973 and spent four sleepless years with that annoying refrain wandering around their head like their own personal audio stalker. They realised the only way to preserve their sanity was to form a band and put an even more cloying rendition on vinyl in order to pass the curse on. They also decided to change one of the repeating lines to make it sound like "Wrapped up like a douche" which I swear I thought the song said until I finally heard the original (it's "deuce" not "douche," which doesn't make any more sense to be honest).

Thankfully the rest of the album isn't nearly as teeth-gnashing as the opening track. You don't often get to use the word "Verbose" to describe an album but Greetings is your chance. It's wordier than an audio dictionary and crammed full to brim with images, analogies, narratives and Americana reference points. To choose a song at random, Lost in the Flood has 432 words which are squashed into three dense verses and don't leave much room for soloing, instrumentation or respite. The words come flying at you like someone reading fridge poetry. The obvious influence is Bob Dylan, who put together entire albums made up of this sort of stuff, only a lot more successfully. Springsteen is no Dylan when it comes to crafting an image or writing a tune.

If you skip past the opening track, Greetings from Asbury Park is a not-unpleasant album that sounds more like a lyricist purging his songbook than a songwriter creating an album. Springsteen fans I've spoken to about this album have said "it's not his best" which is exactly what they said after the last one. I reserve my opinion of his career until I've had a chance to listen to more of his work down the track. Hopefully I'll actually hear his best at some point.

Highlight: The Angel
Lowlight: Blinded by the Light.

Influenced by: Bob
Influenced: Hmmm, only people who had never heard Bob.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Stunk, BOO! I'm not even sure what this is supposed to be. Sounded like the tape got caught in the tape deck. I can't believe Manfred Mann heard 'Blinded By the Light' and said, "Oh ya...let's cover that tune."

-Succinct and to the point.

So are you happy to accept Greetings from Asbury Park or would you mark them return to sender? Let me know below.

2 comments:

  1. Aaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!! How can you review this album and not even mention 'Growin up'? C'mon!! The flag of piracy flew from my mast- how many times have you wanted to use that phrase in a sentence? It's a great song and frankly 'The Angel' is the worst song on this album. Yeah, blinded can be annoying but to dismiss Lost in the flood as merely 432 words is extremely annoying. Springsteen hung out in parts of Jersey where Dylan wouldn't have been game to catch a cab thru to get this imagery and you dismiss it as 432 words. I repeat Aaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!

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  2. Ummm not a great start for the Boss. I really want to like him so maybe not a good place to start. Perhaps I,ll wait till later on.

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