Monday, September 17, 2007

No. 151: Darkness on the Edge of Town

Band: Bruce Springsteen
Album: Darkness on the Edge of Town
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: After the success of "Born To Run," Springsteen put out his most moody record. While "Born To Run" was optimistic and reverential, "Darkness" is dark and brooding. As a highway populist, Springsteen is nearly unparalleled.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: While a fine album, it does not contain King's most famous song, "The Thrill Is Gone." Still, this is a fine placement.
Best song: "Badlands" is only ruined by a crappy sax solo.
Worst song: The title track isn't very good.
Is it awesome?: It's actually not bad.

It seems to me that there's a segment of Springsteen fans that calls each of his albums the best one. More than any other band, each record has its supporters as Springsteen's best. In doing research for this record, our good friend Wikipedia says "With its haunting themes of regret, failure and dashed hopes, many Springsteen aficionados consider this to be his finest album."

You don't see that with any other band. I don't think I've ever heard anyone defend "Please Please Me," "Beatles For Sale" or even "Let It Be" to be the Beatles best album. I've never heard anyone claim "The Who By Numbers" to be the Who's best record.

So... Springsteen has that going for him.


With all that said, I didn't totally hate this album. There is some good populist writing on here (the operateive line comes in the opening track: "You spend your life waiting for a moment that just don't come" exemplifies a stuck-in-the-craptown feeling that exists in great negative rock) and Springsteen's writing is truly mean on this record.

"Adam Raised A Cain" is cheesy blues-rock nonsense, but it's powerful cheesy blues-rock nonsense (now with call-and-response chorus!). "Prove It All Night" appears to be about the Dust Bowl -- let me reiterate that Springsteen is from New Jersey -- but is a convincing story of lovers, nonetheless (forget that it thematically treads on the same ground as "Thunder Road."). "The Promised Land" is similarly depressing, though more tenderly so.


Maybe I just enjoy Springsteen sounding like he's in pain. Maybe I find his Tom Carvel gargling acid voice to work well with darker lyrics. I don't know. "Darkness On The Edge Of Town" probably doesn't belong this high on the list, but it's the only Springsteen record I've enjoyed so far.

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