' ' Cinema Romantico: Newsflash: Born In The USA Does Not Suck

Friday, June 17, 2011

Newsflash: Born In The USA Does Not Suck

Note: I wrote this on Saturday, prior to the truly terrible news of Clarence's stroke, in regards to a particular comment I hear and read often that irritates me, and that was merely underscored when a Lady Gaga/Springsteen fan made a get well video on Youtube for Clarence and one of the first comments was "I'll bet this girl is only familiar with 'Born In the USA' and nothing else." Yes, when in doubt trot out the fake fans only like "Born In The USA" cliche. Christ. Those are Springsteen fans with whom I so do not want to party. So I'm still posting in the wake of the truly terrible news because it still irritates me. 

Once when explaining I was a diehard Bruce Springsteen fan, the person to whom I was explaining asked me: "Which era do you like?" I replied: "All of them. I like all of them." And this is true. Granted, I'm a little cool to his very first album but after that? I love the early romantic Springsteen and the folk-singing Springsteen and the 80's snyth-y Springsteen and I love bits and pieces of the early 90's Springsteen (the version of "Living Proof" with The Other Band off "Plugged" is mind-blowingly fantastic) and, more often than not, I love his work in the recent 00's.

Then again, I'm not a blind fanatic. His "Queen of the Supermarket" made me have a nervous breakdown the first time I heard it and I think "Last to Die" (which he based on a Kerry Slogan) is absolutely atrocious and I think "Real Man" might be the worst song ever recorded by anyone because if you're capable of recording "Racing In The Street" you should never record a song like "Real Man" and I still grieve over The Super Bowl. So yeah, I can see it both ways. And I mention all this because a sentiment I often hear in Springsteen circles was recently re-iterated in a Bill Simmons (i.e. The Sports Guy) column.

I like this album, so apparently I'm not a "real" Springsteen fan. Excuse me while I bash my head against the wall for five hours.
He writes: "Look, I totally get the Cult of the Status Quo, which afflicts MMA fans, hockey fans, and American soccer fans, in particular — they all have a chip on their shoulder because they're still in that 'we're all rooting for a local music band and we don't want it to go mainstream' stage, so they unabashedly drive away anyone late to the party. (It's the reason Springsteen die-hards loathe the 'Born in the U.S.A' album — from that point on, Springsteen belonged to everybody, not just them.)" Oh, for heaven's sake. Man, I am I tired of this argument. And it pops up everywhere! Even in my favorite Springsteen piece ever written by anyone she wrote "'Born in the USA' does suck." Come on, girlfriend! You're better than that!

Don't misunderstand, when Ra Ra Riot finally becomes huge - and they will, if there's any justice - and I'm at the United Center to see them I will be standing there screaming, "I saw these guys at one of those four band shows when they didn't even have an album! Where were you then, huh, ya bunch of posers?! WHERE WERE YOU THEN?!" But let make me this very clear: if the album that breaks them to that highest of plateaus is good, then it will be good. Case closed. And what it does or does not represent for their "status" will be meaningless.

This is to say that simply as an album of music, "Born In The USA", irrefutably, does NOT suck. I say again, "BORN IN THE USA" DOES NOT SUCK. My best friend has argued time and again that the album is "dated" on account of its decidedly 80's synth-riffs, and this - even though I always refuse to acknowledge his point, usually on drunken principle - is accurate. Those synth-riffs do date it. However, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" is very much of the 80's. Its fashion and much of its soundtrack is so 80's that, technically, it makes it "dated." Yet, the core of the film, its spirit, its themes, its very essence, is timeless. This is why "Born In The USA", despite being dated, is, in fact, timeless. And really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really good.

"I'm On Fire" and "Cover Me" are two of the most raw, needy songs Bruce has ever recorded. His vocal on "Cover Me" is pure, undeniable, beautiful anguish. (It also contains one of the better Bruce guitar solos.) "Working on the Highway" is the classic Springsteen Juxtaposition where the music is upbeat and happy, masking a love story gone wrong wherein our faithful narrator winds up on a chain gang. "I'm Goin' Down", in a way, is the perfect expression of The E Street Band sound, the guitar, the bass, the drums, the organ, the piano, and finally the sax all working together in a harmony so freaking perfect it might just make you tear up even though it's a completely casual, tossed off tune. "Bobby Jean" is a guy (Bruce) singing a love song to his male best friend (Little Stevie). In a word: risky. And how can any Springsteen "diehard" not get a lump in their throat at Clarence's solo at the end? And the title track is the best song of Max Weinberg's life. Seriously, listen to it and ignore what the lyrics do or do not mean and the synth and just listen to Max's drums. My God. My f---ing God. Everyone knows Max because of Conan. Everyone should know Max because of his drum fills on "Born In The USA."

Which brings us to "Dancing in the Dark." Yes, it's poppy. Very, very poppy. Yes, the video is terrible. Very, very terrible. But can I ask this: HAVE YOU LISTENED TO THE LYRICS??? It's the most introspective song of Bruce's career. It's brilliant and dark - so, so dark - and if you can't (read: refuse) to hear it because of Courtney Cox, then I call shenanigans.

When my friend and fellow Springsteen disciple Rory and I saw Bruce and The E Street Band at Madison Square Garden there was a jackass standing in front of us who said - literally - to his friends: "If he plays 'Ghost Of Tom Joad', I'm outta here." I prayed the whole time for Bruce to play "Ghost Of Tom Joad" (he didn't) so that guy would've been outta there. And if you think "Born In The USA" sucks just because a lot of people like it, I wish you'd get outta here too.


The Kid In The Front Row said...

I love BITUSA! I love the sound! I love the lyrics. Love everything!

Actually I never loved 'Cover Me'.

But it's a solid album.

Anonymous said...

This gets such a bad rap for no reason ! That picture is iconic, and for a true Bruce fan Dancing in the Dark should be an ├╝ber-favourite. Great post anyhow!