Friday, February 06, 2009

Free Association Friday

It’s been way too long since I posted anything of substance here. Trip has been carrying my dead weight for weeks. I had a bad case of the Januaries, which has turned into a middling case of the Februaries, with a lingering cold mild enough to leave me ambulatory, but significant enough to leave me uninspired. But today, dear readers, I will try.

First off, Bruce Springsteen, you may have heard, played halftime at the Super Bowl. Trip talked about it here, and I wrote last summer about the fine line the Boss has to walk because of all the contradictory expectations heaped upon him. Folks all over the internet have had their say about his performance, and I’ve not seen anything so badly dissected since my frog in 10th grade biology. Really, it’s like no one had ever paid attention to the guy before. Let’s delve into the criticisms:

1) The show was stagey. Yes, it was. As has been every Bruce Springsteen show in the past 35 years. The E Street Band is not the Replacements. Bruce doesn’t hit the stage, pull a set list out of his ear, and let it rip. Everything is calculated. Always. Go back to the 5 LP/3 CD live album. Listen to the stage patter about choosing rock and roll over law or medicine, or coming home to his father after failing his draft physical. You think he made those up on the spot? You think he didn’t do that bit every night? And when he says “c’mon Steve!” and invites his on-stage foil to share a microphone? Every show, folks, and in the same place every night.

2) It was corny. He changed words! A referee threw a flag! Quelle horreur! There is this notion that Bruce Springsteen is a stone-faced, no-nonsense, absolutely burning-in-the-moment rock and roller who is above making a fool of himself. Bruce Springsteen is a goofball. A god, an icon, and a first-rate dork. He has never been above telling corny jokes, mugging for the camera, preaching to the audience, or sliding on his knees across the stage. Springsteen is a pre-punk performer in a post-punk world. He’s the kid raised on Ed Sullivan and Yellow Submarine. Over his career, he has channeled Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Van Morrison and Phil Spector. And all of that earnestness has been leavened with a little Shecky Greene.

3) He committed heresy. There is a segment of the Springsteen fanbase, and a very large segment, for whom Bruce simply IS rock and roll. No other music matters. And for many of these folks, the songs are sacred texts. They are perfect as written and originally recorded, and to mess with them in any way is to stain a legacy. You may know that in order to fit his set into twelve minutes, Bruce dropped some verses from “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” and “Born to Run.” Some folks reacted to this by stumbling around like Fred Sanford, clutching their chests. First, anyone who expected anything other than some judicious editing clearly missed that Bruce wouldn’t be given his customary three hours to play. Second, you still have your albums; feel free to pull them out and hear the full scriptures. Third, the E Street Band is a vintage American R&B group, raised on soul revues, where this sort of thing was the norm. And fourth, stop. Just stop.

4) He got old. I am convinced that some people were expecting to see Bruce play the Super Bowl XII haltime show. 1978 was great. He was at his absolute best then. He’s still awfully good now, and the shows this past year were terrific. But anyone who thinks that now is as good as then is engaged in self-delusion, projecting a fading memory onto the present.

5) It didn’t change my life. It was twelve minutes of rock and roll songs you know by heart, friends. If it hadn’t changed your life by 1984, there’s no chance it’s going to happen now.

End rant.

Got a couple of songs in the inbox from a Chapel Hill band called North Elementary. I don’t know a thing about them, so I’ll let you judge for yourselves:

North Elementary, “Decade Stylin’”

North Elementary, “Golden Tigers”

The undisputed buzz album of the moment is Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion. It’s a proggy-spacey-dancey-trancey record, and that sort of thing isn’t normally in our wheel house here at Teenage Kicks. And I’ll confess that when I listen to it straight-on, it makes no sense to me. But when I put it on in the backgroung, little fragments penetrate my ear and lodge in my brain. I’m sure I’ll be wrestling with the disc for a while before I know what to make of it, but I do know that the video for “My Girls” is motion picture blotter paper:

Enjoy the weekend.


Scott McClatchy said...

Good rant, Michael – both yours & Trip’s. And, for the record, may I just add, that as a Sprinsgteen fan from the old days (I first saw him live in ’75), I LOVE the “cheese” factor that he brings to the show. For all his serious, brooding, thought provoking tracks – he gives us the lighthearted stuff as well. And that’s why he is so great. He carries the balance of the two better than anyone had before or has since.

The Super Bowl show was exactly what I thought it would be (except for 10th Avenue … I didn’t see that coming). And, with a new tour about to start, Springsteen wanted to show the world that the old guys can still bring it.

At this point of his career, no matter what Springsteen does – there are gonna be folks who dismiss it, hate it, lambast it or just flat out poop all over it. Me? I signed up for this ride a long time ago – and I have got my money’s worth many times over. And, to to able to sit in the comfort of my own home, watching one of the most viewed events shown on tv, and seeing Bruce & the boys having that much fun … I really don’t think there’s a whole lot more you can ask of the guy.

Philijams said...

Such a provocative rant but so few comments. It seems kind of spooky to step in here. But I'm going to do 'a what the heck', because i'm provoked. I checked out my 'segment' of Bruce fans to find out their thoughts on a few of your points. I'm talking about people who once snuck into bar joints in Sea Bright, Long Branch, Asbury Park, or did the Carlton in Red Bank and caught shit for getting home late. I'm talking about kids who came out of a viewing of 'No Nukes' in an artsy theater in Medford, MA and broke the quiet of that Suburban neighborhood shouting Bruce, Bruce then proceeded to jump onto the hood of the junker as if it were a piano shouting Bruce, Bruce. I'm saying whoever you are addressing in your rant are frauds. Your Fred Sanfords are not Springsteen fans. I'll tell you what you bring one of these phonies forward and he/she actually turns out to be a Fred I'll do a McClatchy streak down E.Spring Ave.

Anonymous said...

#6 Any man that can hit a cameraman that hard with his balls must have balls of steel. (Or so I've been told.) But, to your point, didn't we already know that?

nice post. ;-) ~K