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Old it like it’s new: Tunnel of Love

February 6, 2009
Bolo, Bruce?  Really?

Bolo, Bruce? Really?

Here at the Animal Show, we love The Boss.  We love him–even the large dose of crotch he provided to what may have been the largest Superbowl viewership ever.  Even through some of the more excruciatingly terribly lyric-ed moments of “Working on a Dream,” we love him–enough to shell out the big bucks to see the thing performed on tour, enough to purchase all the albums he’s ever pressed, enough to even entertain saying, “Yeah, I guess there’s something good about New Jersey.”

But for some reason, we here at the Animal Show cannot find it in our hearts to accept one album, and one album only: Tunnel of Love. A lot of it, undoubtedly, has to do with the fact that we judge everything by its cover, and time has bludgeoned this cover into aged submission.  Unless you’re into heart-shaped bolo ties and reminders of 1980’s American automobile manufacturing.  The other part of it probably has to do with the images that a title like Tunnel of Love evokes, from amusement park rides, to other kinds of…rides…  However, despite our trepidation, Tunnel of Love seems to be a pretty well regarded album overall, claiming a spot on Rolling Stone‘s Top 500 albums of all time list, and apparently ranking 25th on their list of the best albums of the ’80s.  I have decided that it’s time to get over our undoubtedly ageist prejudice, and give the thing a good listen.

And it’s good.  Really good, actually.  The opening track “Ain’t Got You” seems crafted in the Nebraska/Ghost of Tom Joad school of songwriting, with a gritty honesty that grabs the listener, and proclaims that this is not a follow up album to Born in the USA in any regard.  “I got houses ‘cross the country honey end to end/And everybody buddy wants to be my friends/Well I got riches baby any man ever knew/But the only thing I ain’t got honey I ain’t got you.”  In fact, this opening track, and much of the album, seems to echo the disenchantment-with-fame-and-fortune that one Kanye West is trying out these days.  Except The Boss, the everyman–he is more genuine in his delivery than Mr. West can hope to be behind his clouds of production.

And the album is very narrative in nature.  Nothing suckers me in more than a narrative album, and in particular, a narrative album on love (it’s how Damien Rice once seduced a younger me with O).  It takes you from the bombastic, self-assured chase (“Tougher Than the Rest”) very quickly to the loud troubles (“Spare Parts”), the rough memories (“Tunnel of Love”), the doubt (“Brilliant Disguise”), the decline (“When You’re Alone”), and finally, the meloncholy hope tinged with minor-key fate (“Valentine’s Day”).  The instrumentals are, if a bit synth laden, confident, effective, and affective.

In short, give this album a try.  These days, The Boss is happy and larger than life.  He has a wife that he can take on the road, a life that most of the nation envies, and a President that he finds easier to take pride in.  He doesn’t need crushingly beautiful lyrics about running away or running out of love.  Those days–they were darker times, and times that remind us now that even The Boss feels and emotes like the rest of us.  And makes terrible, terrible, mistakes.  Like that damn album cover.

Bruce Springsteen – Ain’t Got You

Bruce Springsteen – Spare Parts

Bruce Springsteen – Brilliant Disguise

Bruce Springsteen – Valentine’s Day

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