Rock ’n’ roll doesn’t have a better working-class hero than Bruce Springsteen, who has been singing about the hopes and dreams of working people for 35 years. Lately, his songs have turned darker and angrier, as he dealt with 9/11, the Iraq war and economic hardships. Not surprisingly, Bruce has been one of Barack Obama’s most ardent supporters. At a rally for the Illinois senator’s presidential candidacy, he gave an impassioned speech and debuted a new song, “Working On a Dream.”
That song is now the title track of the Boss’ latest album. Less bleak than his recent recordings, Working On a Dream draws on the same sense of hope that Bruce expressed in his rally speech. The title track and “My Lucky Day” best reflect Bruce’s new optimism. The former, a mid-tempo number, features images of swinging hammers and roughened hands and includes lines about rising suns, climbing ladders and new days breaking. The latter is the album’s most exuberant rocker, full of giddy yelps, rollicking beats and a joyful sax solo.
Unfortunately, much of Working On a Dream lacks an edge. While it does feature one fierce blues howler, “Good Eye,” and an epic cowboy ballad, “Outlaw Pete,” there are far too many mushy love songs. Still, the album is redeemed by the inclusion of “The Wrestler.” A song about an embattled fighter, written for the Mickey Rourke movie of the same name, it recently won a Golden Globe Award and stands as one of Bruce’s bravest ballads.