Anguish and challenge run thick and fast, at a martial-rock clip, in the first single from Bruce Springsteen's forthcoming election-year address, Wrecking Ball (due March 6th). "I've been stumblin' on good hearts turned to stone/The road of good intentions has turned dry as a bone," he laments in the first verse, a precise, devastating assessment of a nation exhausted by economic straits and locked in an uncivil war of values stoked by selfish Washington gridlock. It gets worse: "Where are the hearts that run over with mercy?" Springsteen asks with deep ragged disbelief. "Where's the work that will set my hands, my soul free?" There is a quick reference to a shame that now seems like a lifetime ago: the black and poor of New Orleans, abandoned to sweaty feral hell in the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina. But it is a still-dark stain on our honor, now acted out in campaign vitriol about lengthening welfare rolls and the "food stamp president."
The broken promises actually come with contagious deja vú, a darkened twist on familiar pleasure. Springsteen's urgent growl is set in a streamlined pop of shadowy synth-like countermelody and throaty-jangle guitar, like the mid-Eighties lift of "Dancing in the Dark" hungover with disappointment. But stubborn faith takes over in the final choruses. "Wherever this flag's flown/We take care of our own," Springsteen sings, scraping off the irony, surrounded by street-church voices. It is, coming through the despair, classic Springsteen, the sound of a guy who believes democracy is not a game of percentages, 99, one or otherwise. It's all for one – or it will be all for nothing.
Listen to Bruce Springsteen's "We Take Care of Our Own":