In which a millennial takes on a staple of music junkies past…
I’ll attempt to approach this write-up without filling in holes of context on the Internet. Yeah, I’m typing on the Internet, but guess what? These fingers aren’t opening a new tab! Umpteenth renditions of old records deserve fresh eyes and ears, and although Nebraska or Springsteen in general are no new facet of my listening habit, it ain’t regular rotation, nor have I had the pleasure of listening to it since it’s original release date way back in 1982.
The mood set by the opening harmonica on “Nebraska” the title track isn’t anything short of eerie. Funny, maybe most of that reasoning falls on the fact that mostly everything else here and elsewhere on record is so tender in comparison. Bruce’s faint echoes are far from a hoarse shout of glory so beloved and typical to adoring fans. I know it, I have Born To Run on cassette in my car at all times. See, I make it sound like a have a Rolling Stone-esque love affair with The Boss, but that’s not really the case. My car just holds a bunch of tapes. I also have The Real Thing by Faith No More in there too; just because it’s sitting there doesn’t mean I have a screaming urge to pop in “Epic” at any point in time. It’s more of a novelty. Nonetheless, Mr. Springsteen stirs up something new than a seemingly endless ballad of glory when “Jungleland” takes Born To Run home in a fiery blaze. Nebraska is different. Something like “State Trooper” is just a little muted guitar picking over the ghostly vocals. Each line after the next is a fainter whisper than the last, Bruce evoking pictures of sparse nothingness in blank rooms, yelling to scare the living shit out of us just for kicks. This isn’t a night time album for me, maybe it is for others. No, the cover art is a dead giveaway perhaps to how Springsteen perceived mass reception in his mind. It’s brighter than hell (or heaven I guess?), but snow on the fringe of the car window yields emptiness.
Nebraska‘s presentation calls to mind a movie cover card over anything else. Maybe Benji took a thing or too from the imagery, certainly from the train-of-thought style presentation in the narrative. It’s easy to see the automobile cruising down the dirt road on the cover as some cinematic opening sequence to an independent film, or at least one set in the country deep in the plains. I don’t know why or how Nebraska tugs the way it does, or what intrigues me so. Bruce Springsteen had a plan in toning things down a grand half-circle turn from his normal jig. I wish I had this tape in my car. Even more peculiar, I almost wish for a back country road to pass by small town after small town, like my life depended on doing absolutely nothing for longer than anyone else. But this record is much bigger than that. Small town stories always have greater meaning than meets the eye when coming from larger-than-life figures, and maybe that illumination of significance is the point entirely.