The Bottom Line
How are we to take the latest rock anthem by Bruce Springsteen? Is it a hymn of praise to the American spirit? Is it a critique of a present that leaves behind ideals of the past? Is it a rallying cry for a new American century? Perhaps it is all of those, and that is the genius of Bruce Springsteen for nearly 40 years now. He can simultaneously take on the role of national conscience and cheerleader without sounding pompous and arrogant. That is a rare talent indeed.
- Classic anthemic Bruce Springsteen sound
- Lyrics that both praise and question
- Bruce Springsteen's timeless vocals
- Written by Bruce Springsteen
- Produced by Ron Aniello
- Released January 2012 by Columbia Records
Guide Review - Bruce Springsteen - "We Take Care Of Our Own"
The first thing that strikes you about "We Take Care Of Our Own" is the sound. Pounding tom tom drums kick off the song and are soon joined by chiming guitar that leads instantly into the big, anthemic Bruce Springsteen sound of past hits such as "Born To Run," "Hungry Heart," and "Glory Days." Even before he opens his mouth to sing, there is no mistaking this as anything but a Bruce Springsteen record. When he does kick the words off with, "I been knocking on the doors that hold the throne," he is in fine form. "We Take Care Of Our Own" sounds like an instant classic.
If it wasn't for the lines, "I been stumbling on good hearts turned to stone / The road of good intentions has gone dry as a bone," it might be easy to believe the song is one of direct praise for the American value, "We take care of our own." Instead, the song serves as a clarion reminder of what we claim to do but don't always do well. A verse referencing Hurricane Katrina and the horrific aftermath makes the point even more obvious. In the bridge Bruce Springsteen plaintively voices a search for this compassion driving straight at the heart by repeating, "Where's the promise from sea to shining sea?" twice. That last line also brings to mind Bruce Springsteen's recent project of recording classic Pete Seeger folk songs, in particular "This Land Is Your Land."
There are some elements of change in the music here that make it clear this is Bruce Springsteen circa 2012 and not 1984. The massive call of Clarence Clemons' saxophone has been stilled by his death this past summer. There is no attempt here to replace it, but he is missed. There are electronic echoes in the mix that indicate this is a contemporary rock record. You may definitely find yourself singing along to the choral, "We take care of our own" by the time the song's four minutes wrap up, and that may indeed be the ultimate point, to instill this value of compassion back into the millions of listeners the song is likely to find.
"We Take Care Of Our Own" is the first single from the upcoming album Wrecking Ball. Advance press materials say that it is a somewhat experimental record for Bruce Springsteen. It is the first time he has recorded with producer Ron Aniello, best known for his work with Lifehouse, Jars of Clay, and Bruce Springsteen's wife Patti Scialfa. The album reportedly will include new sonic elements such as loops, electronic instruments, and hip hop rhythms. It is then fascinating that the first single will bring fans directly to their memories of classic Bruce Springsteen from the albums Born To Run, The River, and Born In the USA. "We Take Care Of Our Own" bears the markings of Bruce Springsteen's genius by being a song that is not only clear and direct, but also a bold step forward with ample room for differing interpretation. Wrecking Ball will be one of the most anticipated albums of the year.