Sunday, July 1, 2012

Bruce Springsteen: "Jack Of All Trades."

Now is the time for your tears.  After three songs that try to put on a brave face, try to believe in a community that might be ready to "start caring for each other / like Jesus said that we might," that try to will that community into existence with all the art and craft a long and storied career can bring to bear, we get to the heart of the matter.  There is no such community, not in this country.  Those who believe in Jesus most vociferously and ostentatiously quite obviously don't believe in what he said about loving yer neighbor. 

And so the heavenly hoedown of the previous two songs, the would-be AM anthem of the first track, gives way to the weariest of weary ballads here, complete with a kind of instrumental sigh behind the line "the banker man grows fat."  Musically it's still throwing in bits of everything Bruce has done, from the simple piano accompaniment of his great '70s ballads to the ethereal synth beds of his '90s soundtrack classics, plus an elegiac trumpet that comes from God knows where.  All to make you weep, brother.

Because here the narrator, too, now of one united mind, begins to realize that what he's saying isn't true.  He testifies to his willingness to work, catalogs the things he can do, and reassures his lover that "I'm a jack of all trades / honey we'll be all right," but he knows, she knows, we know, it ain't so.

And why ain't it so?  Because They don't need us.  The bankers and those they bank for have figured out how to make money off of us without employing us.  Every job that isn't nailed down is being shipped out of the country or automated out of existence - it doesn't matter how many jobs you can do, because pretty soon you won't be needed to do any one of them.  The few jobs that are left have so many people clamoring for them that They hardly have to pay anything at all.  We're begging to have our right to a living wage taken away from us.  We'll work for free, just on the off chance that someday They might deign to pay us to work.  We're all superfluous to the bankers' schemes.  Except, possibly, as chits in their wagers - "they'll bet your life," the singer reminds us.

What makes it worse, although it's no doubt intended to make it better, is the singer's knowledge that "it's all happened before and it'll happen again."  We're in a Depression, folks.  Well, the last one ended.  But the bankers are determined not to make that mistake again. 

If you're not angry (suicidal will do) by this point in the album, you're not paying attention.

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