Album: Lucky Town.
It’s such a truism that even the greatest artists have a “down” period that Steven Hyden just did a bracket article (”brackticle”) in Grantland about it. And naturally one of the artist periods he chose was Springsteen in the 1990s, where – without the E Street Band to ground him – he suddenly felt like a man out of time.
And, of course, it didn’t help that he started the period out with a grand gesture that utterly backfired: releasing two albums on the same day. Not only had this been done the year before with Guns n’ Roses unleashing the Illusion twins on the same day, it was done better. Basically, Gun n’ Roses gave us nearly four albums worth of stellar hard rock (especially Use Your Illusion II, which … well, don’t you worry, you’re gonna hear about that record soon enough), while Bruce gave us two records of overproduced mush.
Well, that’s not entirely true: there were good songs on both records, and Lucky Town gets the nod over Human Touch because clearly Bruce didn’t overthink it as much.
(Speaking of Human Touch, while the title track is an OK song that goes on way too long, I’m not sure any human being has looked as awesome doing their thing as Bruce looks playing the guitar in the video for the title track. Maybe Michael Jordan.)
For example, “Local Hero,” a tune à clef as witty as anything in his catalog, full of smartly-strummed guitars and wailing harmonicas, but slightly overburdened by an absolutely unnecessary gospel choir. That said, I’ve always loved the chorus, and in the bridge: there was no doubt that Bruce had foreseen his ‘90s doom:
Well I learned my job I learned it well
Fit myself with religion and a story to tell
First they made me the king then they made me pope
Then they brought the rope
It’s a pretty great song, but in the spring of 1992, one of the most fertile musical periods of my lifetime, a few great songs spread across two albums just wasn’t gonna cut it.
“Local Hero” performed live in 2013.
My Certain Songs Spotify Playlist: