Remember P.F. Sloan? Sure you do. It was back when every folk rocker worth his harmonica holder was flushed with Dylan fever and seeing how many syllables he could cram into every involuted couplet. There was Tandyn Almer, of “Along Comes Mary” fame (“The psychodramas and the traumas hung on the scars of the stars in the bars and cars — something like that), and David Blue had his own Highway 61 too, but absolutely none of ’em could beat ol’ P.F. He started out writing surf songs, but shook the world by the throat with his masterpieces “Eve Of Destruction” and “Sins of a Family,” and all his best material was just brimming with hate.
Boy howdy, the first thing the world needs is a P.F. Sloan for 1973, and you can start revving up yer adrenaline, kids, because he’s here in the person of Bruce Springsteen. Old Bruce makes a point of letting us know that he’s from one of the scuzziest, most useless and plain uninteresting sections of Jersey. He’s been influenced a lot by the Band, his arrangements tend to take on a Van Morrison tinge every now and then, and he sort of catarrh-mumbles his ditties in a disgruntled mushmouth sorta like Robbie Robertson on Quaaludes with Dylan barfing down the back of his neck. It’s a tuff combination, but it’s only the beginning.
Because what makes Bruce totally unique and cosmically surfeiting is his words. Hot damn, what a passel o’ verbiage! He’s got more of them crammed into this album than any other record released this year, but it’s all right because they all fit snug, it ain’t like Harry Chapin tearing rightangle malapropisms out of his larynx. What’s more, each and every one of ’em has at least one other one here that it rhymes with. Some of ’em can mean something socially or otherwise, but there’s plenty of ’em that don’t even pretend to, reveling in the joy of utter crass showoff talent run amuck and totally out of control:
“Madman drummers bummers and Indians in the summer with a teenage diplomat/In the dumps with the mumps as the adolescent pumps his way into his hat” begins the very first song, and after that things just keep getting more breathtakingly complicated. You might think it’s some kinda throwback, but it’s really bracing as hell because it’s obvious that B.S. don’t give a shit. He slingshoots his random rivets at you and you can catch as many as you want or let ’em all clatter right off the wall which maybe’s where they belong anyway. Bruce Springsteen is a bold new talent with more than a mouthful to say, and one look at the pic on the back will tell you he’s got the glam to go places in this Gollywoodlawn world to boot. Watch for him; he’s not the new John Prine.