Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska

I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that this is Thursday (although for some of us, it’s just our Wednesday equivalent) but nonetheless it’s that time of week again.Today’s pick is courtesy of The Boss so that means it’s Nebraska:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nebraska_%28album%29Here’s the playlist:
http://grooveshark.com/#/playlist/Bruce+Springsteen+nebraska/58959809

If there are any problems, I probably can’t be immediately contacted, since I’ll be restarting my computer.  I’ll see you guys in like 15-90 minutes.

 

Josh:

Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska: 4 stars

Precon: Never got into Bruce so I only know a few songs. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say this album deals with being poor, your girlfriend’s father not liking you, driving down to the river, and it’s dedicated to all the hardworking people.

Favorite Track: Highway Patrolman for the emotion. Atlantic City for the overall song.
Least Favorite: State Trooper. Like the vibe but I could have used some variation.

The harmonica and unintelligible singing make it seem very Dylany at first.
Damn, I forgot to include “hard to find a job” before.
Damn, I forgot to include “the edge of town,” “they closed the plant/factory/mill,” and references to someone who “ain’t no good.” We should have made this a Bruce Springsteen drinking game.
He can tell some good stories, but it often seems like the lyrics were forced into the song. Take “Highway Patrolman” for example. It’s like he’s singing a poem he wrote to the tune of another song and making it fit. Touching story though. “My Father’s House” is another good example of this.
Well it was practically the last line on the album but we finally got a rushing river.
This certainly is a sparse album, musically anyway. I read that these were only supposed to be demos, which makes sense and lends to the raw emotional feel of it. Springsteen is an interesting dude. Predictable and cliched yet tremendously expressive and earnest. Just when you think some lyrics are hackneyed, you’re wondering why you have tears in your eyes. I’m gonna give him the benefit of the doubt on this. He just seems to believe what he’s saying so damn much, and maybe he has his conventions, but more often than not they work. I guess you could say he goes back to the well a lot, but there’s always water..

Marissa:

Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska

Preconceptions:  I’ll always have to thank Chris Ryan for getting me into Bruce Springsteen.  Before he (and Paul) started to profusely recommend him, I always just thought of him as the guy who did “Born in the U.S.A” and danced with Courtney Cox.  I mean I had also known him from Philadelphia and Secret Garden but there is something distinct about “early” Bruce Springsteen that was refreshing, or maybe just finally relevant to me as a struggling 20-something.  I’m excited about this pick.

Nebraska- wow, this is a super downer.  I mean I get that it’s in the vein of “real” or “old school” country, whichever phrase you prefer, and the Bonnie & Clyde aspect of it is familiar and American folk at its heart.  Harmonica is always a nice touch when you really want to proclaim your down home, apple pie American intentions.

Atlantic City- there’s something very signature about this one.  It doesn’t feel like he’s trying so hard, and the stripped down production serves this song really beautifully.  The harmonica doesn’t feel hokey here, and there’s a slight heartbreak in the lyrics and a wistfulness in the music.  How can I not love something like this?

Highway Patrolman-Of course Frankie ain’t no good, and looking the other way never helps anything.  I think we all knew this song was headed down a bad track from the opening, morose tone.

After Listening: I think, of what we’ve listened to, that this is in my Top 10 in production values for albums.  I think it just works as an album, meaning that the way the tracks are laid out, the overall sound, everything feels really coherent.  That being said, there’s a lot of throwback to country and folk and it works for the most part, but there were some reaching moments where the authenticity failed a bit.  I feel like Bruce Springsteen is kind of the musical equivalent of Brian’s Song or something.  It’s music for “real” men that they also feel ok crying to, and if you’re crying at any album, it’s probably this one.

Favorite Track: Atlantic City
Least Favorite: My Father’s House

Overall: 4.0

Mike:

Preconceived Notions:  “Born in the USA” was the 1st tape I ever bought when I was a kid.  I loved that album.  “Dancing in the dark” & “I’m on Fire” man those were great tracks.  But to say I became a fan of Bruce-eh, I didn’t really.  As I grew up and found more of his stuff – I just didn’t attach myself to some of his rock stuff…and a pattern arose where I seemed to genuinely just respect his slower pieces. His voice was always great, his music was hit or miss.  I’m intrigued to take a look at Nebraska b/c it’s billed as the darker predecessor to Born in the USA, with slow stripped down songs.  This sounds like the Bruce I like.

After Listening: Sadly, this sounds like shit. It just does, and I’m not talking about the music yet – I’m talking about the actual recorded sound quality.  It’s terrible. I wanted to blame grooveshark for this, but then I went to youtube and it was roughly the same.  I couldn’t believe he could put something out like this…what the hell is with all the compression?  So I turned to the wiki for some enlightenment…..apparently Bruce decided to just mix the record straight from his 4 track recordings.  I like the theory Bruce, but this was a terrible technical decision…if you didn’t want the rest of the band, just re-record the stuff solo on better equipment…b/c this doctoring job lopped off a lot of the natural acoustic frequencies.  If you doubt how important this is, simply listen to any of these songs live (“Used Cars” live is included in the playlist)…instantly the songs are lushier, more poignant.  That’s your ears at work with all of the natural soundscape.

The actual music – if you can get by the compression, is a little uneven.  Bruce’s voice is always solid, and I love his guitar work as he’s left in some less than perfect picking and fretting that is very endearing on acoustic guitar.  The acoustic guitar is sort of unique in this aspect…I mean where else in music are “mistakes” translatable as “character”?  Certainly not harmonica, and I have to say over half of the harmonica work on this record is bad, and could’ve easily been dropped.  When used subtly in a song like “Highway Patrolman”, it provides a touch of tone color that’s a welcome embellishment,  but too often it’s used like it is in “Atlantic City” – a sort of blaring effect-pointless to the music and bordering on obnoxious (maybe it’s a poor homage to Neil Young?)

Favorite Tracks: “Nebraska” – A great opening for storytelling.  Simple and steady guitar work, some of that subtle harmonica I mentioned above, and not too much wandering in the lyrics.   A classic mood setter, and an obvious choice for track 1.
“Used Cars” – A lot to do with b/c it’s live (on our playlist anyway) perhaps, but I enjoy the almost meditative guitar backing…you can def hear some of the slurred and imperfect notes here.  It’s a short track so it remains focused enough – to the general album theme it seems like little more than an album “extra touch”.

Least Favorite Tracks: “Johnny 99”  – There’s that bizarre “yodeling” thing that repeats annoyingly – to the straight up rock style strumming of the guitar, and the obvious inhaling on the harmonica…all of it just screams out bad basic acoustic rock.

Overall: 3.6  My feelings on this album are complex-which I suppose is fitting given its reputation.  It should’ve been a homerun to me – a stripped down record, brooding and dark subject matter – (a brother who murders someone/the crisis it makes for one brother for example), and a common idea presented fairly originally.  It’s not quite a concept album in the traditional sense, it’s more like Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger, in that the songs are generally on characters and a theme 1st – not a cohesive tale.   It’s executed in that sense much better than Willie’s effort.   However, the recording is awful, and the songs themselves suffer.  There are too many moments on the record that seem similar, and even among the songs I enjoyed I can’t think of any that will stick to me in the future.  Overall it feel ssort of hollow, and not the type of hollow that leaves with an ache to replace the feeling, just sort of hollow.  Somehow emotionally shallow, a little lacking in depth. It just seems like this record gets by (critically) on its ideas, and not so much on what makes the appearance on the record.

Paul:

Preconceptions: This is one of my picks, so I love it. My favorite Springsteen album.

After Listening: It gets better every time. It is fascinating that he recorded this alone in his bedroom, and that fact adds to my love of this record. I believe that Bruce’s stories tap into some very basic and timeless aspects and themes of American life, and really human life in general, and on Nebraska it is presented raw, without a studio treatment. This is why, even while it is lesser known than some of his great albums, I say it is the essence of the Springsteen ethos.

Favorites: Atlantic City, Johnny 99, Highway Patrolman, Reason to Believe
Least: None—I think it’s a masterpiece.

Overall: 5 stars

Seth:

Bruce Springsteen- Nebraska

Preconceptions: Springsteen is one of my favorites and Nebraska is his last great album.

Favorite Tracks: Atlantic City, Highway Patrolman
Least Favorite: There are no clunkers here.

Overall: The stripped down solo arrangement on Nebraska enhances the bleak tone of these songs. Springsteen fans have long wondered what the full E-Street Band version of this album sounds like but it’s hard to imagine it being more effective than the simple demos that were released. In Nebraska, Springsteen lives up to the comparisons to Guthrie & Dylan. Themes of mass murder, family responsibility trumping duty, organized crime, unemployment, and poverty run through this album, without the celebration found in earlier albums. Even the exuberant road trip in Open All Night seems only a quarter mile ahead of onrushing calamity. Everything dies, baby. That’s a fact.

Rating: 5.0
Extra Credit: The Gaslight Anthem- The ’59 Sound

admin (196 Posts)

Record Club began in the cold, dank, snowmageddon scene that was New England of January 2011. We’re probably no different than you. We all work in cubicles, some in smaller, less private cubicles than others; that just means we have to be even sneakier about how we listen to our music. But we have to listen to our music, mostly as a way of saving our own personal sanity. Sometimes our opinions lead us to debates that may or may not be published in their entirety on this site, but I can promise you’ll at least get a glimpse of the way our minds work. The main goal is to find new music we like or find old music that we didn’t know we liked. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes it’s a total and complete disaster. After our ears have rejoiced or stopped bleeding we try something else. This is our pattern, every Tuesday and Thursday. Sometimes, when the club isn’t officially in session, just to keep everyone on their toes, we throw in a theme day. We’re beginning to run low on our original list, so please, if you have albums that you’d like us to review or themes that you’d like to see our playlist of, feel free to contribute. After all, we’re all in this together once we punch the time clock. So if you’re busy (or just plain bored) lurking in your cubicle as you read this join in. After all, life wasn’t meant to be lived staring at a computer screen. I guarantee you, it’s at least more fun when you plug the headphones in.


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