by carl wilson

Bruce, Win & Regine: It Ain't No Sin
To Be Glad You're Alive

Normally I wouldn't bother, as of course it's been all over the place, but there's really something mind-boggling about this video of Bruce Springsteen singing the Arcade Fire's Keep the Car Running with Win and Regine from the AF, in Ottawa on Sunday night. It is like some sort of reality barrier was breached, in ways to which their previous star-crossed experiences don't quite compare (you sorta expect it of Davids Byrne and Bowie, and nothing Bono does is ever very surprising). More importantly, it makes the argument for a continuum between Springsteen's roots in the '70s New York scene (which he shared, as is so often forgotten, with the likes of Patti Smith, Suicide and the Ramones) and where indie rock is now, in a non-analytic, demonstrated-to-be-so kind of way: Get Bruce singing an Arcade Fire song and you hear how much like a Bruce Springsteen song it is. My colleague Robert Everett-Green had a review of that show which seems to draw a bit on Michael Barclay's Eye cover from last week about the Boss's currently rampant influence on younger indie bands today, the whole "why now" issue (discussed a bit here on Zoilus back in April). Robert favours the anti-postmodern "sincerity" angle, and Michael likewise covers the "death of irony" side of the street, although in fact Springsteen's songs are full of ironies of a subtler, lower-key kind, and once irony is dead we all are.

But Michael does get a very good take on it from Mac McCoughan (of Superchunk/Portastatic/Merge) - that it's about facing darkness and surviving it, and celebrating that survival without (I would add) having to lie to yourself to do it - which makes me think of the line from Badlands at the top of this post. And that's certainly a sensation that the Arcade Fire also tries to generate, an attitude that seems especially appealing in this moment - to say it's no sin to be glad you're alive, of course, implies that there's something suggesting to you it is a sin, that there's something plausible about that. And the thing about Springsteen is that very consistently, on some level, sometimes politically and sometimes just socially, he's always been pretty clear on saying that it's some form of elite (your dad, your school, your boss, the bureaucrats, the rich, the president) that makes ordinary people doubt the value of their own lives, and that the only chance for magic always begins by refusing to believe them. Which has certainly seemed timely of late. I was sad that Michael didn't mention or talk to Steve Kado anywhere in the piece, as Steve has a particular take on "why Springsteen" that makes sense of why his Blankket project would do a Springsteen EP shortly before going to work on a Theodor Adorno cycle. Eye Daily also has an online review of last night's Bruce show in Toronto, which I unfortunately missed.

Coming soon: Some talkin' back to SFJ's anti-indie polemic in The New Yorker this week. (First I'm going to politely follow his request and listen to the podcast.) Sneak preview: He's right about some things and overlooks others, but he's also leaving a pretty important variable - class - out of the picture entirely.

General | Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, October 16 at 1:42 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (3)



Thanks, Carl. I hadn't seen this. It gave me goosebumps and a lump in my throat.

Posted by Lisa on October 17, 2007 11:08 PM



Bruce Springsteen or John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band? In either case, much better/much weaker than the source material. (Enough with the dead animal theme already.)

Posted by Jordan on October 17, 2007 8:12 AM



I look forward to your remarks about SFJ's piece. I may blog about it myself.

I found it frustrating, and I think you're right to mention class.

Posted by Richard on October 16, 2007 7:33 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson