Saturday, February 07, 2009

Kat's Korner: Springsteen's serving up a dud

Kat: Adam Sandler used to do a parody of Bruce Springsteen on Saturday Night Live, a parody of love. What happens when love is tossed out of the equation? And what happens when it's a self-parody? Those are questions that Bruce's new album, Working On a Dream, raises. Repeatedly.


Take the first track. Over what he hopes sound John Ford-ish but really is just the love theme to St. Elmo's Fire, Bruce babbles and wheezes through lyrics so embarrassing you're only boggled that he didn't toss in his favorite (and lame) phrase of "wee-wee hours." The phrase actually would have fit for a change since, if he's not sending himself up, he appears to be writing for the next Rugrats movie:

He was born a little baby on the Appalachian Trail
At six month he'd done three months in jail
He robbed a bank in his diapers
And his little bare baby feet
All he said was folks
My name is Outlaw Pete
I'm Outlaw Pete
Can you hear me?

Yes, Bruce, I can, though I wish I couldn't and you might wish that soon as well. At 59-years-old (he turns 60 later this year), I'm really not sure Bruce should be singing he's Outlaw Pete, a bank robber in diapers, unless he's thinking of some sort of TV ad tie-in with Depends adult diapers.

Bad lyrics and a rip-off of the love theme to St. Elmo's -- the mid-section of the song. Can it get worse? Yes. For example he can take the opening of the love theme to St. Elmo's (I'm really starting to fear Bruce last got out of the house in 1985) and use it for "Queen of the Supermarket."

The title tells you just how awful the song is going to be but still you don't fully believe it until he starts singing:

There's a wonderful world where all you desire
And everything you long for is at your finger tips
Where the bittersweet taste of life is at your lips
Where aisles and aisles of dreams await you
And the cool promise of ecstasy fills the air
At the end of each working day
She's waiting there
I'm in love with the queen of the supermarket

Uh, Bruce, I don't know where you shop but on good trips, baked goods fill the air of my supermarket and, on a bad trip, spoiled yogurt or some other milk product. Possibly before writing about a supermarket, you might try shopping in one? Just a thought, but one that might have prevented you from writing Rogers & Clark's follow up to "Wardrobe Of Love." Don't believe me? The Ishtar singing duo played by Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman offered up, "She said come look, there's a wardrobe of love in my eyes, take your time look around and see if there's something your size." Of course, the difference is, Beatty and Hoffman are playing bad songwriters and Bruce presumably wants to be a good one.

He's in love with the supermarket queen, you understand. So he takes his "groceries and I drift away . . . a dream awaits on aisle number two." Yeah, the song and the whole album bring to mind number two. As he drones on and on, you realize that he may be in love with the supermarket queen but he's never told her. In fact he "prays for the strength to tell her" he loves her. Not since Rick Springfield asked "How Do You Talk To Girls?" has a falser pose been struck. In case Bruce is truly being sincere, let me assist: Make her your backup singer. That's how you ended your first marriage and started your second, right?

"Tomorrow Never Knows" starts with a hackneyed title, a really bad finger-picking arrangement, Bruce trying to wheeze like Dylan (the Dylan who just allowed "Blowing In The Wind" to be used in TV commercials) and never has a thing to say deeper than the title. If you're begging for comparisons to Lennon & McCartney with your choice of song title, it's probably a good idea to have something actually worth saying.

When not borrowing from St. Elmo's Fire, Ishtar or the Beatles, Bruce apparently takes his inspiration from The Carol Burnett Show. How else to explain "Surprise, Surprise"? Yeah, I saw that skit where Carol, as Eunice, says "Surprise, surprise." She's very funny. Carol's a wonderful comedian. But is Bruce trying to make us laugh?

Well surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise
Yeah surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise
Well surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise
Come on open your eyes
And let your love shine down
Well surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise
Yeah surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise
Well surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise
Come on open your eyes
And let your love shine down.

That's how the song opens and if you're thinking, "Well, it has to get better," you haven't heard it. Hint, next two lines are, "Well today is your birthday, We've traveled so far, we too . . ." As Phyllis Diller would say, "That's a personal call." And boring to all the rest of us. There's a little life in "Last Carnival" if you enjoy it when professional singers can't reach a note and their voices crack. If that's your bag, by all means enjoy Crackling Brucie trying to sing "train" and "break" throughout the song.

He nods to Paul Simon's "One Trick Pony" in what can be seen as his sole attempt at confessional songwriting: "If you've ever seen a one trick pony, then you've seen me." That's "The Wrestler" and, in it, he asks, "Tell me friend, can you ask for anything more?" How 'bout an album with something other than mindless lyrics, musical rip-offs and a third grader's point-of-view?

Meanwhile, the title track is like a slowed down version of a Bruce-penned Donna Summer song. No, not "Cover Me." He wrote that for her, but I mean the one she recorded, "Protection." Double the speed of "Working On a Dream" and it's pretty much that. Doubling up the speed would allow him to be done singing "dree-um" a lot quicker and he might be able to hold the note he loses currently. Does no one have the guts to tell the 'Boss' when he sings flat? It shouldn't take anyone to tell him he missed the phrase so, since he rarely makes it to the "mm" of "dream," maybe they figured telling him he was flat wouldn't have made a difference either? As you listen to him wheeze his way through the simplest three note phrase and never complete it, you start to wonder if he has any breath control left? The whistle in "Working On a Dream" will only have you wondering more.

Mainly, you'll grasp this is the worst album of the year. It's the worst musically, vocally, lyrically. If they gave Golden Raspberries for music, Bruce would go home with every last one. He can't even write a song anymore. You grasp that when you listen to "What Love Can Do." This song that never seems to end (for 2:56, it sure seems a lot longer), has Bruce encountering a girlfriend or wife (presumably a woman), telling her "the remedies you've taken are all in vain, let me show you what love can do." That's the first verse and start of the chorus.

What does a songwriter do? A real one allows the speaker to, indeed, "show you what love can do." Bruce never gets around to that. He offers a lot of rhyming lines about what's gone wrong in the woman's life, but he never gets around to showing her what love can do. I don't know if he's lost it for good or if it's temporary, but he shows up this go-round with about less than half the talent of the worst Springsteen impersonator.

I opened noting Adam Sandler's parody of Bruce and I'll close with a question that Bruce might have asked in better times, "Is a parody a parody if it don't get laughs, or is it something worse?"
[Illustration by Betty's oldest son.]