Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Springsteen: Wrecking Ball Review

Bruce Springsteen's new album "Wrecking Ball" is, without a whisper of a doubt in my mind, the strongest, most cohesive, best-sounding album he has produced in the past 11 years.  That I would argue to anyone who cares to hear me rant, really.  What blows me away about this album is that it is probably my favorite Springsteen album post-"Born in the USA".

Nah, definitely.

The beginnings of my espousing to others the magic and the brilliance of Springsteen came when I became a convert in the late 90's, listening, re-listening, crying to, pouring over, and attempting sorry re-hashings of the core of his catalogue: "Born to Run", "Darkness on the Edge of Town", "Tunnel of Love", and, of course, "Nebraska".  Unfortunately (to me) the beginnings of my apostleship also coincided with his re-emergence with The Rising and his subsequent run of ho-hum albums since then.  Each new release brought with it the promise of being the new "Darkness" or the new "River", only to disappoint me when I didn't really enjoy the album as much as I thought I would or should and the rest of the world exalted his majesty and his brilliant touch again.

The albums since "The Rising" include: "Devils & Dust", "Magic", and "Working on a Dream", as well as the folk cover album "We Shall Overcome: the Seeger Sessions", and "The Promise", a release of unrecorded tracks from the late 70's.  I enjoyed them all, and have come to appreciate "Magic" especially, but each release left me feeling empty and with the thought that Springsteen was trying to stretch himself and coming up short.  Meanwhile, the critics would rave about how "eclectic" his new sound was now that he was incorporating drum loops or how "multi-cultural" he had become because he had some black folk singing backup about God.

It was all pretty annoying to me, because I knew deep down that he had more in him, and that now that I was a full-blown Springsteen apostle, I didn't have my "own" album to write about.

I think I do now.

"Wrecking Ball" is fantastic.  It is loud, fun, cynical, mean, tough, smart, pensive, and timeless.  Springsteen is penning lyrics like he always has, lyrics that speak to both the current time and all time.  Yes, the album is political.  Overtly political, even.  Get over it.  Springsteen has been writing political songs since the 70's and has been outspoken about his politics since the 90's.  Get over it, critics.  It is just a part of his music at this point, and you can take it or leave it as you choose.  I simply get sick of hearing the same review every time a new Bruce album hits - "Well, the songs are rockin', but be warned: he's a Demmycrat!".  So what.

I believe in the music - and I guess that's what hit me first.  Outside of "Rocky Ground" (admittedly weak) the songs ring true and genuine - not forced integration, but true homogenization.  He has taken his eclectic experiments from the past decade and welded them into a goddamn wrecking ball, and my jaded E-Street ears can tell.  

I have to admit there were times in the past few years where I thought that maybe Springsteen had truly past his prime and that while the earnestness and the intention were there, the craft and the passion were not.  This album takes that theory and blows it out of the water.  

It has it all (at least the things I like in a Bruce album):

1.  The Radio Rocker That Everyone Likes That I'm Kinda Lukewarm On - "We Take Care of Our Own"
2.  The Fucked-up Anti-Corpratism Mellow Nebraska-ish Song: "Jack of All Trades"
3.  The Glory-Glory-Hallelujah Ending Song: "Land of Hope and Dreams"
4.  The Boot-Stomper That You Don't Expect to Get Stuck In Your Head:  "Shackled and Drawn"
5.  The Sleeper Song That I Think Nobody Gets But Me:  "This Depression"
6.  The Ultra-Clever Throw-Away Pop Song Just Because He Can:  "You've Got It"

Simple formula, right?

"Wrecking Ball" is the first Springsteen album since, well, "Darkness", that made me feel the way "Darkness" did the first time I heard it. 

And that's about as high praise as I can give.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Everything is Amazing and Nobody is Happy

A few months ago I wrote a post about how amazingly simple it is these days to find and access any type of media from virtually anywhere on the planet at any time, and how we already take it for granted. Comedian Louis C.K. apparently agrees with me - here he is recently on the Conan O'Brien show:

He, of course, says it much more humorously and eloquently than I do, but the point is the same. Basically, at this point Apple could give us phones that were built-in to the back of our hands that never needed recharging and could monitor your vital signs while playing back YouTube clips, and people would still complain about the orientation of the screen or bitch about the auto-complete feature.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bryce Harper, Getting Better By the Day

Feast your eyes on Bryce Harper's truck, courtesy of Deadspin:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sports Cards for Insane People

Now that Progressive Boink and the Dugout have moved on to greener (read: money-producing and read by more than 3 people) pastures, Jon Bois and Brandon Stroud's unique sense of humor is finding its way into more and more Internet articles. And to that, I say, huzzah.

Case in point - "Sports Cards for Insane People - The Awesome 1880's Athletes of the World" on SB Nation is the perfect blend of niche, well written, over-the-top, hit-the-nail-on-the-head-of-whatever-it-is-you're-trying-to-describe writing style that makes for what I think is a new genre of comedy writing.

Are there genres of comedy writing?

Anyway, the piece describes a bunch of sports cards from the 1880's hilariously and brilliantly, like this blurb describing "Daniel O'Leary, Heel and Toe Pedestrian":
Daniel O'Leary, champion of the pavement, did walk 200 metres through the streets of London without so much as a speck of goat, sheep, pig, cow, or human feces bespoiling.
His figure, a feat described by the Daily Mail at the time as "the preeminentathletic feat of our century, and more surprising still that O'Leary, and Irishman, did it all in what was a straight line indicating sobriety, and condition previously thought impossible among the people of the Emerald Isle." O'Leary fell into an open sewer at the 201st meter, but his record walk and unique technique lived on for years in the lore of London as "O'Leary's Walk."
I'm not sure how to describe that other than a Victorian-era newspaper clipping. It made me laugh, and it should make you laugh too, damn it.

But really, I think I'm the only one out there who really gets this stuff.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The King is Dead, Long Live the King

There are so many great media slayings of LeBron James out there today, but I think this one from ESPN takes the cake:

Left threadbare, all James could do was deploy his defense mechanisms.

“All the people that were rooting me on to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before,” James said. “They have the same personal problems they had to today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want with me and my family and be happy with that.”

Yes, James could leave in his Bentley or Rolls Royce or Maybach or whatever vehicle he chose to drive. He could, indeed, go home to his mansion where his personal chef might have a five-star meal waiting. Then off to his plush bed with 1,500-thread-count sheets. In a few days, it’ll be off on a private jet for a needed vacation.

The vast majority of those who toasted his defeat will wake up and go to work on Monday morning.

Monday, June 6, 2011


Craig Calcaterra over at Hardball Talk had a good idea today which I am going to completely rip off: in doing his weekly baseball power rankings, he decided that instead of explaining their rankings, he would just list his favorite players from each franchise. And that, my friends, is right up my alley.

Without further ado, my favorite players from each franchise:

Cardinals: Ozzie Smith

yankees: Don Mattingly - A tough pick as I despise the yankees, but I've always secretly loved Mattingly.

Phillies: Mike Schmidt - I won't lie; this is primarily because I had a sweet Starting Lineup action figure of him.

Rangers: Nolan Ryan - Probably says a lot about my age, but I remember Ryan as a Ranger.

red sox: Tim Wakefield - Not even remotely close to being anyone else.

Giants: Tim Lincecum/Will Clark - I stole Craig's idea on this one, but it's true: I loved Will Clark growing up because he was kinda a NL version of Cal Ripken (at least I thought so at the time. Probably because he was white and played hard with those flip-up sunglasses). But I have to say Tim the Enchanter may have overtaken him.

Brewers: George Bamberger - I know this makes no sense. I just wanted an excuse to post a picture of one of my most-loved baseball cards from my youth: ---------------------------------------->

Why can I recall that card so vividly when I can't remember what my first girlfriend looked like?

o well

Indians: Jim Thome/Kenny Lofton - I can cheat. This is my blog.

Diamondbacks: Justin Upton - First really tough choice as there aren't many options. Craig Counsell and his extremely nerdy team photos come in second.

Blue Jays: Roberto Alomar

Tigers: Cecil Fielder

Marlins: Charlie Hough - I love how this guy played until he was almost 50 but somehow managed to look even older than that while playing.

Rays: Casey Fossum - I have to respect any man who tries to make the Eephus Pitch work in the Major Leagues. And create a sweet nickname for it, as well. (The aptly-named Fossum Flop)

Mariners: Ichiro - With Jr. Griffey followed extremely close behind.

Reds: Chris Sabo - The RecSpecs say it all.

Angels: Jim Abbott - Because, well, he had one freaking arm and pitched a no-hitter. Let's see you do that.

Pirates: Andy Van Slyke - Most difficult pick yet. I literally have no memories of the Pirates in my youth, which is a same as that was probably the only time in my life that they have been good.

Rockies: Andres Gallaraga - The Big Cat wins it with an awesome nickname.

Mets: Mookie Wilson - My next door neighbor as a kid was an older guy who collected baseball cards. One day he asked me who my favorite player was, and for reasons that are still unclear to me, I said Mookie Wilson. From there forward, every Mookie Wilson double he ever got was given to me. I still have no idea why I said that, because even then I liked Darryl Strawberry and Gary Carter more. But give a Mookie his due.

Dodgers: Orel Herschiser - Incredible for like 3 seasons and blah for the rest. Always looked like a nerd on the hill with those glasses. I loved that.

White Sox: Frank Thomas

Athletics: Dennis Eckersley - Simply because of my penchant for weird pitchers who are successful. Rickey is very, very close behind.

Orioles: Cal Ripken, Jr. - My hero, a gentleman, and a legend.

Nationals/Expos: Tim Raines - But if you're pressing me to come up with a National, Mike Morse because he is seriously helping my fantasy team this year.

Padres: Tony Gwynn

Royals: George Brett

Cubs: Ryne Sandberg - Again, an awesome nickname wins it for Ryhno.

Astros: ? - Can I say Nolan Ryan again?

Twins: Kirby Puckett - And I can damn well guarantee you that 95% of 29 year-old males would say the same thing.

Turns out most of my favorite players were from my youth, and players that I had either a good baseball card or an action figure of. Life was tough before SportsCenter and MLB.TV. Who are your favorite players?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cats vs. Music - the Eternal Struggle Part II

Well, unless's official blog stats lie, I can declare the Cats vs. Culture war officially over:

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May 17, 2011
33 Pageviews
May 20, 2011, 1 comment
22 Pageviews

That's right - over the past week my post about Richard Thompson has received 11 more views than my post about cats and their musician owners. Those additional 11 views, inconsequential as they may seem, do unfortunately sound the death knell for feline-related articles on this page for the foreseeable future.

However, this is pretty cute:

That is all.