We’re counting down to Christmas Eve with the albums of the year. Visit tomorrow to see what the next one will be.
Bruce Springsteen is back and he’s madder than hell.
His 17th album is the angriest he’s ever recorded.
After the Obama optimism that permeated feelgood Working On A Dream, he feels bitterly betrayed. Springsteen lambasts the politicians, the businessmen and the bankers who have left working men struggling to survive the recession.
And although there’s no E Street explosion, no Seeger Sessions smiles, musically little new, it’s a potent brew.
Inevitably, the shadow of the late Clarence Clemons stretches across the album, which is dedicated to the Big Man of the E Street Band.
He appears on two songs: the title track, which recalls Springsteen’s Born To Run era, and Land Of Hope And Dreams - a live set staple since 2000 but laid down in the studio just last year.
Opener We Take Care Of Our Own sounds like a flagwaving anthem until a twist of the knife changes everything, demanding answers.
Where’s the work, the spirit, the promise, Springsteen demands?
What the hell went wrong? Just like Born In The USA fooled Reagan into adopting the anti-war song, it’s a clever conceit.
The theme runs through Easy Money, in which he gets a gun, and album standout Jack Of All Trades, where he wants to shoot the bastards.
It’s not all successful. You’ve Got It is makeweight retro rock and roll, and the jury’s out on the rap in gospel-grown Rocky Ground.
Folk-fuelled finalé We Are Alive brings all the elements together, Springsteen the storyteller, the blue collar Boss, even a hint of Johnny Cash classic Ring Of Fire.
The latter opens in Woody Guthrie-style Americana before adding rock and roll guitar, and was huge in Hyde Park this Summer.
Wrecking Ball doesn’t have immediate impact but repeat plays reap rewards, always the sign of a great album.