"Mr. Bruce Springsteen" (please say with pompous condescension - listen to Randy Newman's "My Life Is Good" in Podcast 1 for inspiration) - what is the deal? I was comfortable knowing he had reached irrelevance at the same time I had reached legal maturity. I had no problem with the Boss and the Piano Man going out as Grumpy Guses with their pissing and moaning "57 Channels (And We Didn't Start The Fire)" malarkey. But after September 11, Springsteen dragged his wrinkled carcass out to torture us with "The Rising", a song filled with such empty platitudes and overblown schlock as to make one long for the subtle bombast of "Born In The U.S.A."
That Springsteen re-sold the public his hackneyed "every-man/every-pain" persona is fine; he serves a purpose for some, even if it is one for which I have little use. What is killing me right now is Springsteen as alt-rock influence. That two current bands would so choose to ape the lord of logorrhea is more than a mind can bear. It is easy enough to discount The Killers (I just don't get what the Hot Fuss is about. Bad pun - deal), especially since they have the misfortune of not understanding how Springsteen got away with Born In The U.S.A.; it was the Reagan years, and the combination of cocaine and Aqua Net damaged many people's sense of taste. I'm afraid to find out if they penned an ode to the baseball of their youth - the hoary old McGwire/Sosa years - or if they have wet dreams of the Acela running along the Northeast Corridor. I'm also unimpressed by their acquisition of last year's costumes and spirit-gum mustaches from My Name Is Earl.
But another, more problematic Bruce-biter roams the land; the widely praised Craig Finn, lead singer/songwriter (I use both terms loosely) of The Hold Steady. Finn doesn't sing, per se, but speaks loud, emphatic tales of drifters and sinners, people with names like Shifty Montenegro and Sal Paradise (one of these I didn't make up). From the streets of Minneapolis to migrant communities of Ainu dockworkers in Gdansk, Finn spits and heaves epic montages of tortured souls who've lost at love and canasta, looking for a shot at redemption or at least another roll of the rigged dice in the crap-shoot of their dreams. Backed by a band who wants to meld E Street with The Replacements, but instead sound like Soul Asylum and The Beaver Brown Band, Finn has the audacity to rip whole cloth from Springsteen's back catalogue. You can try to say "Stuck Between Stations" or "Party Pit" aren't achingly like "For You" or "Rosalita", but no one likes a liar. If you like Born To Run, you've had 30 years to get it, and don't need this sad band. They should of at least had the decency to call the album The Wild, the Innocent & the Springsteen Ripoff.