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.