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Tuesday, March 20, 2007 

Everything That Dies Someday Comes Back

When I was a kid, my family used to vacation up in Virginia on this tiny little spit of land called "Deltaville" that jutted out into the Chesapeake. One summer, I remember I rode from Deltaville back to Richmond in my future aunt's convertible Camaro. Just her and me. She had long black hair that blew in every direction in the Lower Eastern Shore wind, and as we cruised the beachfront town, she put in Born to Run. And even though I was ten years old, man, I got it. And for two hours, I was living inside a Springsteen song.

It took a few years of wandering through the musical hinterlands of Rush, Zeppelin, Van Halen, et. al. before I made my way back to Springsteen. I've been hooked ever since, even though I'm living a life about as far as one can imagine from the Jersey Shore. I'll write some other time about the Springsteen live show I saw in Memphis, a singularly transcendent experience that was the finest concert I've ever seen.

Today's topic is the neo-Springsteens -- should I call them "Newce Springsteens"? No, no, I should not -- who are yelling and pining their way to the tops of the rock charts with a combination of soaring ambition and earthly subjects, ferris wheels and beaches and boardwalks and open highways and One Last Chances and all that flat-out awesome Americana. Kids too young to understand the mythology they're goofing around with are turning out some damn fine work, even if they're doing a lot of color-by-numbers.

The Killers have made the biggest popular smash, even if they seemed to construct their lyrics from a Springsteen magnetic-poetry kit, as with their hit "When You Were Young": "We're burnin' down the highway skyline on the back of a hurricane that started turning when you were young..." I don't know what the hell it means, but with all those majestic guitars, it sure sounds cool. Lucero's "I Can Get Us Out Of Here Tonight" carries "Thunder Road"'s DNA like a child; it's one of the best songs of last year. The Hold Steady nails the epic guitar-piano-sax-glockenspiel sound of the best Bruce, rendering even the idea of puking at a concert in bold strokes. And Jesse Malin, whose Glitter in the Gutter was just released today, goes straight to the source, drafting The Boss himself for a duet entitled "Broken Radio." (Links take you to the iTunes store.)

The amazing thing about Springsteen is how relevant he remains; even putting aside last year's foray into folk music, he's still putting out incisive rock. I'm not sure how long any of these off-brand versions will be around, but it's damn good music while it lasts.
(Check out that shot of the Atlantic City boardwalk. Looks like it could have come from the '70's...but there's a Starbucks there! That's what you call blog-post synchronicity, homes.)


Great post! I especially love The Hold Steady's punkish version of Bruce. Those are desparate tales of youth gone awry.

I think I was at that same show in Memphis. During the songs, you could hear a pin drop in that place.

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Jay Busbee runs Yahoo! Sports' NASCAR Blog From The Marbles, Atlanta Magazine's Atlanta sports blog Right Down Peachtree, and the Southern sports/humor blog Sports Gone South. He also writes for damn near anybody who'll throw him a buck and a byline, and he's at work on the books The Quiet Dynasty: The History Of The Atlanta Braves' Championship Run (2009, Sports Publishing LLC) and God Is A Bulldog: Georgia, Florida, And The Greatest Play In College Football History (2010, Sports Publishing LLC). Click below for more info on his novels, articles, and comics.
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