If ever proof was needed of the heights the art is capable of Bruce Springsteen, here is his return to the rough but at the same time refined sonorities of his beloved E Street Band for the record “Letter to you“. And it is not simply “just” a question of (high) musical quality. Because “Letter to you”, to be released worldwide on October 23, is above all a journey that shakes and moves, that screams and whispers, that while it pushes us to dance after having reinstated our faith in living, tears our soul apart revealing common, painful fragility .
Once again the Boss fires an album almost necessary for listening, it has been fiercely topical for a long time: to the extent that writing about himself, about aging, about the fear of the last call (as well as the ethical sense of a music understood therapy and lifeline), Springsteen ultimately unveils the perspectives and fears of all of humanity today. That is the man of the era-Covid, a man whose certainties have been overturned, if not dissolved, within a few months.
From the first song, it is clear that “Letter to you” will leave deep marks. Because “One minute you’re here”, lyrical and brooding, is a song of the loneliness of existence: photographed between poignant memories and painful awareness, underlined by explicit lines such as “I thought I knew who I am, but I was wrong / One minute you are there, a minute later you no longer exist ”.
But do not believe that the depth of necessary awareness of the Boss fades into pessimism: indeed. Then “The power of prayer”, the power of prayer, is almost an answer to the above passage: with its final dancing of certainty, more than hope, in the face of the calls of the “bouncer” with the scythe.
The E Street Band on the CD comes into play at its best from the second track, the one that gives the work its title: a solid and tense piece that summarizes the desire to say oneself in a free-range and almost instinctive way, in a hymn to life that is both proud and fragile for which the “you” of the title is both the beloved, the others, and a God.
A God, yes. Because if in the Springsteen of 2020 there is the savory secular faith of carnal love (pure love) that explodes in “Burnin ‘train”, there is also the explicit one: said in a way that Johnny Cash would have liked, since “If I was the priest” talks about a Christ who calls the desperate to fight against ill repute, “because too many bad people are already running around here”, with the protagonist of the song accepting the challenge and relaunching the faith in a brash, vigorous way , in short, very American as well as terrestrial humanity, a concrete humanity perhaps even drifted or fatigued but always firm in values, which spreads on the CD until it becomes a co-star along with music and its ethical value.
Really, the path of “Letter to you” takes continuously and always pushes to open eyes, heart and perspectives. It changes little, whether we focus on the cinematic song of a lonely woman whom religion, justice and science can never help except by getting our hands dirty with reality (“Janey needs a shooter”), or you prefer to join the hymn to life, as well as to music as sharing, of “Ghosts”.
But beware, the real ending of “Letter to you” is not the one that closes the disc. In fact, although “I’ll see you in my dreams” marks both the closure of the journey by re-focusing it on the Boss’s need to look back but at the same time around and within, that his vigorous and definitive affirmation of a life that is worth well beyond the physical horizons, “Because death is not the end”, the real fulcrum of “Letter to you” and its ideal ending lie between the political center “Rainmaker” and the ethical one “House of a thousand guitars”.
With “Rainmaker”, which speaks of a charlatan wizard of the rain (read Trump), Springsteen is a jewel of grim and angry invective but also capable of the necessary analysis when investigating which dramas, have led many to believe in false promises . While the house of a thousand guitars, of melodic nobility worthy of the best US songbook, is poetry as dazzling as it is poignant: a true declaration of love for what music gives.
In “House of a thousand guitars” the Boss sings “The killer clown has stolen the throne, but maybe the truth will come out from some suburban bar when we turn on the lights of the house of a thousand guitars / The embittered and disillusioned will wake up, so leave your troubles aside, let’s go where the music never ends: brothers and sisters everywhere, we will become more and more… until we ignite the spark that will light up the house of a thousand guitars ”.
It leaves you breathless, this song that sings about why it’s worth making music, why making it “Springsteen-style”, how much it can give to man and to the world – as Boss fans know well. It leaves you breathless and shivering to the skin, and restores the sense of grandeur of “Letter to you” as well as that of Bruce Springsteen. His new CD would therefore be the true, worthy ending, if he did not include among the talents he possesses that of having in spite of rhetoric. And therefore it prevents listening from falling into the abyss of emotion by restarting the journey, precisely, with an invective against Trump.
Even if, to be honest, in whatever order you want to listen to “Letter to you” or reflect on its contents, well, believe: thought, energy and emotion will always go hand in hand, for a long time every piece of this Springsteenian puzzle he succeeded, heard, able to tell us about us and what we are today.