It begins with big drums, a guitar seesawing beneath like a deck rolling in high seas. It ends with a fuzz of static and feedback, a hiss of promises broken and a mortgage on the future.
In the 13 songs that unfold in between, one of the elder statesmen of American popular music delivers what might fairly be called a State of the Union Address. And if that sounds grandiose for a rock album, so be it. But know that, for all the manicured eloquence of the constitutionally mandated report President Obama delivered in January, the new Bruce Springsteen album, “Wrecking Ball,” captures more raw emotional truth about the state of the American Dream than any politician ever could.
These first years of the millennium have been extraordinarily trying, especially for a nation that had passed a quarter-century in relative peace. Then came terror. Then came wars. Then came economic meltdown. And in the last, we were galled to find that what had brought us to the brink of ruin was the greed, corruption, mendacity and predatory practices of giant money houses and that we were now required to save them from the consequences of their misdeeds because they were too big to fail.
Meantime, we failed right, left and sideways, as jobs went away and money grew tight, as horizons receded and hope shriveled down to a wrinkled shell of itself and people who’d never asked for all that much to begin with — a fair chance to earn their own bread, care for themselves, house themselves — found their aspirations padlocked behind them, their dreams set out at the curb. In a nation where corporations are people and fetuses are people, actual people could not catch a break, nor even much in the way of empathy.
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