Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Quoted: Josh Freese on Springsteeen; Westerberg

I worked on Bruce Springsteen’s new record. I didn’t really care. I didn’t grow up listening to Bruce Springsteen records. I didn’t grow up, sitting at home, dreaming of meeting Bruce Springsteen one day. I don’t listen to his lyrics and go, “Fuck, these are the best lyrics ever written.” I’ve never had those moments. Is he a legend? Sure. He’s an American rock ‘n’ roll legend. Is he great? Yeah, he’s great. Do I listen to his records? No, I never listen to his records. I’ve heard his records, because I leave the house and I walk through grocery stores and I go to sporting events. But Paul, I’m still pulling for Paul, because he was an underdog. Bruce Springsteen’s not an underdog. Bruce Springsteen sold 300 million records. There’s still part of me that loves Paul because the rest of the world will never know about him, meaning there’s a small pocket of the cool people who know who he is and then no one else does. That’s still part of the fire inside of me that fucking roots for him and pulls for him, is because he’s got this hopeless existence. He’s never going to sell a bunch of records. And he’s doing these shows and they’re great. Even Coachella—there’s 4,000 people in the front who are stoked and 15,000 kids with glowsticks, scratching their heads. -- Drummer Josh Freese in Vice
I can identify with this. Those of us who grew up in the 80s got the worst possible version of Bruce Springsteen. Fist-in-the-air, arena rock, co-opted by Reagan Bruce was completely unpalatable to a generation inchoate punks. I was well into my twenties before I could even grudgingly accept that he was a great songwriter. It took sitting in a parking lot in a thunderstorm with Nebraska as the soundtrack for me to get it.

Springsteen's working-class mythos is hard to escape, too, especially for an actual working-class person. Plain and simple, his work doesn't speak to me either. In 1974, Ellen Wills said, "Springsteen's rock and roll is rooted equally in lower-middle-class semi-suburbia and in post sixties youth culture. [...] Springsteen is a romantic with an impressive capacity for verbal and music excess." The heavy influence of sixties teenage melodrama and the valorization of working-class identities was always a big turn-off for me, though I know this has more to do with the public perception of his lyrics, which actually run deeper than that, but being poor isn't noble. It's shitty.