Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bruce Springsteen tribute album

We busted out of class had to get away from those fools
We learned more from a three-minute record than we ever learned in school

Play Some Pool, Skip Some School, Act Real Cool is a wildly ambitious project gathering 38 acts to each reinterpret a Bruce Springsteen song. Its success owes as much to the variety of the artists involved as it does to the quality of the source material.

Springsteen’s back catalogue offers a tapestry of riches from ensemble rock and roll to dustbowl ballads to woodsman folk to blue collar soul. At the heart of this impressive body of work is an organising principle based on Americana , particularly its 20th-century folklore with an emphasis on the modern fable of the teenager and the illusion of the American dream itself.

"I guess I would say that what I do is I try to chart the distance between American ideals and American reality.”
Those that view Springsteen’s output as being about cars and girls (rather than, say, “Wizard imps and sweat sock pimps, interstellar mongrel nymphs” or "the cops finally busted Madame Marie for tellin' fortunes better than they do") are missing the point. In the same way that people whose view of Springsteen’s entire career as a fist-pumpin’ stadium rocker is based on a cursory listen to Born In The USA radically misread that song’s anti-nationalist polemic and Springsteen himself, just as Ronald Reagan and his Republican apparatchiks did in the 1984 presidential election.

There is a far-reaching passion for the power of pop music in Springsteen’s lyrics (“As the radio plays/Roy Orbison singing for the lonely/Hey that's me and I want you only” or “Cause summer's here and the time is right/For goin' racin' in the street”) that shows him addressing the theatrical wonder of pop as much as he fights wider political issues.

It’s this wonder that I feel a lot of the bands on WIAIWYA’s fine compilation responding to. I know that some fans of the indiepop representatives on this album have expressed distaste that “their” bands are covering Springsteen. You’d think a more reasonable reaction would be to dismiss their prejudices and listen to the music that is adored by the bands they adore.

A chance to see 10 of the album’s acts (plus some special guests – not Springsteen himself, I imagine – although perhaps some of the more established names on the compilation) are playing at the Buffalo Bar this Friday.

Incidentally, a number of those indiepop diehards flooded the dancefloor at the popfest earlier this year when Blur’s Girls and Boys was played. The same people whose disdain for Springsteen is based in part on him being a “Mojo artist”. The same Blur who have graced the cover of Mojo more than once. The same Girls and Boys novelty summer song where the only difference between that and any other summer novelty chart hit or manufactured boyband song is the amount of the promotional budget that was spent on anal bleaching.


brogues said... 'anal' your word of the week?! I laughed out loud in my quiet office when I read the last line :)

Tim said...

I'm no fan of Blur but I'd like teejus old Brooce a lot better of he'd do a summer novelty song or two.

Fire Escape said...

Brogues - just a conincidence. There is no current - or past - anal obsession, I can assure you.

Tim - I don't think you'd like Bruce whatever he did, even if it was a rocksteady album about the Loch Ness Monster.

Greenpop said...

Hey Ben,

Great post! I think some of the disdain on the Anorak Forum about indie pop bands covering Bruce songs is absurd. The man has written a staggering number of classic anthemic pop songs. While some may not (justifiably) love his arrangements, I think they undervalue his songwriting. I'm fairly certain that if I say the words "Dancing in the Dark" or "Born to Run" most could sing the melody of those numbers without even thinking about it. For me that's the mark of a great pop song.


Jude Rogers said...

Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to comment, Ben – although not on the same post. Here's what I wrote before you stopped letting me do so:

Thanks for responding, Ben. I don't buy your comments about misogyny, though. You and I have been in the same room many times, you obviously know who I am – although I don't know you – and this makes your comment particularly hideous, especially given how violent it was. Kicking someone testicles brutally would also be a horrible thing to say, and even more so if you knew the person.

As for the subs telling the readers that their comments are in the headers/etc - do you honestly want this to happen? If so, I look forward to reading the Guardian with interminable footnotes or tracking lines every day from now on. Papers aren't made of sections where pieces of writing can just magically fall into place, you know, – they need to be cut to fit columns, and sometimes subs make wrong decisions. Annoying, yes, but there's far more important things to get angry about.

Also, the internet is a public place, you know, and journalists – believe it or not – are human beings. And as a human being, I was appalled by what you had written, and emailed some friends to tell them so. I'm sorry if you're annoyed by their responses – I didn't ask them to respond by any means, but the fact that they were also horrified shows I'm not alone in my thoughts. Although I don't think you're in any position to call them thugs, to be honest, are you?

I hope this makes you think twice before you post anything so deeply and horribly unpleasant about anyone again – especially someone who you vaguely know. I look forward to ignoring you at an indiepop gig very soon.

Fire Escape said...

For the record, I emailed you personally and I did see your original comment in the (previously) above post. I deleted the post due to the sheer volume of unpleasantries being left.

Anonymous said...

Given that you threatened to kick Jude in the cunt so hard she choked on her uterus, are you really surprised that people reacted with 'unpleasantness'? I read the comments and no-one came close to saying anything as unpleasant as you did.

I still think you have behaved utterly disgracefully through this whole thing. You really should be ashamed.

Jude Rogers said...

Ben, Jude here. Have now read your email, but would be keen to know what you think about the response I posted above in light of my further - and I think, vital - comments. Will check in later.

Fire Escape said...

I accept that I expressed my vitriol too violently and I apologise if you ever thought you were under threat; I thought I made it clear that you weren't. Even so, I acknowledge that I crossed a line I shouldn't have and upon reflection I am contrite.

With regard to the confusion between the sub's standfirst and the journalist's copy, I agree that too much inteference would ruin page design and article flow, but maintain that a distinction between the two could be made clearer. Another issue, perhaps, is subs being expert in the fields in which they're working.

Nonetheless, I overreacted. I will, as you say, think twice before hurling such crude personal insults and respond in a more measured, if no less angry, style.

On the point of misogyny we will have to differ.

Jude Rogers said...

Ben, I never felt physically threatened, obviously – I was more offended by how entirely inappropriate and brutal your comment was, especially as we are often out in the same places, and obviously have mutual friends. This is what really angered me. Let that be that.