Human Touch/Lucky Town

International Herald Tribune, 1992-03, by:
Along with the collapse of Communism, there appears to be a crisis of confidence in Democracy. Step back for a perspective anywhere, you get a jaundiced eye. Step in the same direction listening to Western pop music, you get diseased ears. Music reflects society.

Heavy metal and rap exist below the subsistence level, like 40 % of the Russian people, Jazz, democratic classical music, survives on food stamps. The best of traditional R'n'R is said to be Bruce Springsteen, who has just released two new albums - H.T. and L.T. - after a 5 year silence. We're in deep trouble.

Listen to either title track and you grasp at straws and sigh - at least we can count on good old Broooce. After two whole sides, however 24 tracks, it becomes clear that the Boss has also lost his claim to citizens confidence. They add up to limited variations on the same old songs, familiar 4 chords, old gambits (although he's been listening to country music and plays better guitar) and worn images.

Each Cole Porter song was different. Willy Nelson sings a succession of songs. A new song by the Beatles was {\it new}. Randy Newman's literate commentaries about our decline are tuneful. As were, come to think of it, Springsteen's "Born to Run".

Rich and a superstar now, he no longer feels qualified to represent the working man with his blue- collar blues. In "Local Hero" he comments on the price of joining the elite. He wants to build a wall "so high nothing can burn it down" to protect his son. Even staying home with the only thing he can count on, his family doesn't work. In "57 channels and Nothing On" he loses his lover and shoots his TV " in the blesed name of Elvis". Hardly new insights-Pink Floyd dealt with a wall and vapid TV years ago and Paul Simon for one dealt with Elvis.

It's difficult to trash Springsteen. He does his best within a bankrupt form. He's trying to say something. He's certainly likeable. We should all have such a sympathetic boss. It's also difficult to avoid the conclusion that rock has become what musicians and journalists strain to find increasingly flowery adjectives and poetic metaphors to avoid admitting. A product. 24 tracks and nothing on.