Astonishingly Perceptive Guardian Scribe : Bruce Guilty Of Rockism

Posted in Rock Und Roll at 2:27 pm by

Of Bruce Springsteen’s headlining set at the Glastonbury Festival’s Pyramid Stage last night, the Guardian’s Dorian Lynskey — killing all chances of a guided tour of the Bronx from Peter Abraham — opines, “being bored, irritated and only occasionally thrilled by the man routinely called the most electrifying performer in rock is no fun at all…this critic felt like someone standing in front of a magic-eye picture and being told that, if he stares long enough, he will see the Statue of Liberty but who finds, two-and-a-half hours later, that it’s still just squiggly lines.”  These John Cafferty sympathizers are everywhere, I tell ya.

For someone acclaimed as a perceptive blue-collar bard, he’s rarely far from self-parody. Many of his songs sound like numbers from a Broadway musical about a guy who works in a garage. If you drank a shot every time he sang the words work, dream, streets, highway or refinery, you would be unconscious within an hour (less than halfway through the set). During Working on a Dream (two shots), he begins testifying like a southern preacher, or, more accurately, like a Saturday Night Live comedian doing an impersonation of James Brown, about building a house of lurve, a building of soul and a loft extension of hope.

But then it seems that the whole point of Springsteen is that he’s a colossal, unashamed, scenery-chewing ham. Born to Run is both the most preposterous song in his catalogue and the most heart-thumpingly joyous. Dancing in the Dark and Glory Days are elevated, rather than marred, by their corny use-before-1985 synth riffs. More of a problem than the garage-guy lyrics, the oh-lawdy business and Clarence “Big Man” Clemons’s reliably ghastly sax solos, is the realisation that, despite Springsteen’s stature, he has very few songs that have entered the mass consciousness. Only the three just mentioned “ along with Because the Night and Thunder Road “ excite mass singing all the way to the back. Calls for Born in the USA go unanswered. Fair enough, because it’s a good song massacred by its bombastic arrangement and is now avoided by the very man who made it, but during long stretches of bar-band rock and American Land’s horrible Irish jig, one wished he would throw another bone to the agnostics.

I don’t wanna argue with Mr. Lynskey, though I saw a Springsteen show earlier this year and found most of the cheesey O.D. bits he describes to be of the kidding-around variety.  But as we should all have an informed opinion rather than rely upon the crackpot testimony of self-styled experts, here’s some exclusive footage of last night’s Glastonbury show.  Decide for yourself!

3 Responses to “Astonishingly Perceptive Guardian Scribe : Bruce Guilty Of Rockism”

  1. Repoz says:


    Time for me to pull out my dopey Letters to the Editors riff from Crawdaddy Magazine Dec – 1975! (You know…the one with Brando squatting out a large corn-filled Missouri breaker on the cover)

    “So Jon Landau has called him the “future of rock ‘n roll” and Peter Knobler has gone out of his way (Oct. ’75) to remind everyone that Crawdaddy was the first “major magazine” to do a story on Springsteen. Both are co-conspirators in the biggest hype this side of Jaws. I’ve seen three times and he’s gotten progressively worse (not that he was much to begin with).

    All his albums run into one another, splicing paragraphs to make different songs…warm beer, boardwalks, cops, cars–come on, how long can a person write about such things?

    Landau and Knobler are caught in their star-fucking as much as Springsteen is caught in his triteness and banality.”

  2. hoopinion says:

    It’s folly to follow Repoz, but yay I am a fool…

    I saw Springsteen for the first time a couple of months ago. Besides giving me time to think on him and realize that despite his music being a constant but non-essential part of my life I only like one album he’s made in the last 25 years, I didn’t realize how post-modern his show was. I found his air quote revival posturing purposefully amusing.

    I was impressed by the effort of a man who’s essentially the same age as my parents. On the other hand, I was disappointed that he only came genuinely alive during a ramshackle cover of “96 Tears.”

    Likely a good guy, who appreciates the gig he has but tries not to buy in completely to his own hype. Though he surely could afford to do so.

  3. Don says:

    Since Nils Lofgren is from Bethesda and Steven VanZandt has done so much for our society, it’s been a long time since I criticized him. I found Dorian Lynnskey’s comments to be roughly what I believed during the later DCHC years- lets say 1984-85, minus the concept that few of his songs entered the public consciousness, that is inarguably untrue. If mass singing equals the public consciousness then the Golden Grahams Cereal commercial is virtually a fascist anthem. I mean, what would one say about the public consciousness’s view of “Wipe Out?” I never hear people sing that.

    Springsteen’s greatest impact was to separate the revolutionary, outre and gay elements of rock and roll and marry the musical genre to blue collar conservatism. Bruce himself knows this and avoids singing Born in the USA for that reason. I think there’s every reason to question what you’re seeing there because you’re not seeing Little Richard, you’re seeing Post-Nixon, Pre-Reagan America.

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