Nebraska – Bruce Springsteen in the Reflecting Pool

Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska – 1982

If Darkness of the Edge of down was dark, Nebraska is downright suicidal.
Death is all over this record, a series of 4 track demos Bruce released years before Rivers Cuomo or anyone else would think to do the same. From the Chicken Man who was blown up in “Atlantic City” to the murderous Starkweather inspired serial killer in “Nebraska”to the unemployed robber sentenced to life in “Johnny 99”, this album is stark.

The “Mansion on the Hill” is unattainable to these people. The “Highway Patrolman” who lets his criminal brother get away does it because he doesn’t see another way and “nothing feels better than blood on blood”. The driver who is hoping that the “State Trooper” won’t stop him could be the same driver in The River’s “Drive All Night”.

These are the darkest, coldest songs Bruce will have committed to record yet. Stripped down to him, his guitar and his harmonica, even the cover, with it’s vast expanse of nothing stretching out through the windshield of a car headed…nowhere, Nebraska is unexpected.

It’s haunting.

It’s harrowing.

It kind of amazes. But it doesn’t invite repeat listening. The songs are great. Here’s a great cover of the last song, “Reason to Believe” by the Beat Farmers, a far more exciting version, in fact.

But their presentation is meant to scare. I think Bruce is mining some deep territory here. The father son relationship isn’t just a separation like the one found in “Independence Day”. No. This is the aftermath. In “My Father’s House” I think we’ve seen that boy finally come to terms with his dad, come back to look for him, only to find that he’s gone. Strangers are living there now.

The windshield may be heading to the unknown and desolate future, but it’s really whatever would be found in that rearview mirror that this album is about. It’s about the bad shit that has happened to people. People with no future.

Bruce has never sounded so hopeless.

Grade: B+
ASide: Atlantic City, Badlands, Reason to Believe
BlindSide: Johnny 99, Highway Patrolman, Nebraska
DownSide: Nothing is bad….just very very depressing.

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