catching up: justified, house of lies, lost girl
#13: breathless (jean-luc godard, 1960)

music friday: bruce springsteen, “we take care of our own”

Bruce has a new album coming out in March, and the first single has been released:

Advance word is that the new album, Wrecking Ball, is the “angriest” of his career. I suspect that honor will always belong to Darkness on the Edge of Town, which assumed the personal stories of the people struggling to follow the American Dream would translate, unspoken, into an angry indictment of the world that made their struggle so difficult.

The repetition of the title, “We Take Care of Our Own”, hammers home the irony of the place where the flag is flown (this throws us off, because Bruce is usually the least ironic of artists). There would seem to be no way to take it other than ironically: good hearts turn to stone, there ain’t no help, the promise from sea to shining sea is gone, but “wherever this flag is flown, we take care of our own.” No one is being taken care of … he can’t get much more clear than “there ain’t no help”.

Yet some folks are apparently unearthing a hopeful message from all of this, as if the mere existence of a Bruce Springsteen song in these dark times is reason to hope (I’m regularly guilty of this idea, myself). I hate to quote that fucking Huffington Post, but Google sent me to them, so for once I’ll break my rule. They wrote, “The lyrics of ‘We Take Care Of Our Own’ evoke recent tragedies but also sound a note of hope, suggesting that the nation can reclaim its spirit of shared sacrifice.” Uh, no. There may be hope elsewhere on the album, and Bruce has a long tradition of finding hope in the midst of despair. But it ain’t here.

Matt Orel writes that the song is already being distorted by writers with an agenda, comparing it to the misreadings of “Born in the USA” in the 1980s:

It didn't take long for history to repeat. Already this morning, a piece in Los Angeles Times was titled, "First take: Bruce Springsteen's patriotic 'We Take Care of Our Own'" According to this misread, the lyrics "offer an affirmation of national glory," and "the title phrase borders on jingoism." Of the chorus, "We take care of our own/Wherever this flag is flown/We take care of our own," the piece concludes, without the barest hint of irony, that it's "about community and pride."

Matt’s a lot more astute about the song than either the Times or HuffPost: “I hear an accusation, a cry of betrayal from a former believer … the song is one of bitterness, angriness, and is a reminder of who we supposedly were.”

I’m obliged to point out that the music is pretty standard Bruce, despite Jon Landau’s claim that the album’s music is innovative. But then, no one expects musical innovation from Bruce Springsteen. I think it’s interesting that the only person to appear in the video is Bruce himself … he’s not trotting out “the common man” for this one. I can’t say I’m overwhelmed by the song, but I am glad that the ball is rolling on getting him to play a concert in the Bay Area. I’ll feel hopeful at least for the duration of that show.