Fill it with devils and dust

Bruce Springsteen’s new album, Devils and Dust, gives me the chills, but in a comforting, friendly kind of way. Like a dear friend whispering some strange but true observation in my ear, it penetrates beneath my drained heart, filling it with idealism it hasn’t seen since contemplating FDR’s presidency yesterday as I drove home from work, as NPR subjecto-journalistic zealots buzzed on the radio in the background, spinning more unnecessary Social Security debate rhetoric. Just as I chose not to work the high school gossip mill, I can’t join in this debate because, let’s face it, it’s just not worth my time.

When I think of Social Security, I mourn the New Deal and wonder how this country can head back in that direction. FDR’s ideology has sadly faded into the Great Depression chapter of history textbooks. The politics of welfare have officially lost out to the priorities of those in power. Left-wingers everywhere are preaching resistance on morality-based, corporate-based issues like Social Security privatization, Supreme Court Judge selection, Corporate Energy handouts, Terri Schiavo. But what happened to advocating need-based issues that need to be addressed right now? Health care, poverty, education?

Call me idealistic, call me raving mad, call me Steinbeck, but whatever it is that ails me, right now all my blame rest on Bruce Springsteen because his newest music is so lyrically intimate yet universally familar. It’s the same old voice, same basic acoustic guitar-harmonica arrangements, but there’s something about this album that progresses beyond his previous work. I’m still searching for exactly what it is, but until then, I’m tapping the lyrics of Devils and Dust in a very personal way and right now it’s breeding a surplus of troubled conscience resonance, and I can’t shake it.

Maybe what makes Devils and Dust so powerful is that it’s constantly searching for what it wants to be, but it’s ultimately content that you may never know for sure. Springsteen never settled anywhere long, going from the impulsive romanticism of Born to Run to the stark industrial depression of Darkness on the Edge of Town, all the way to marital torment of Tunnel of Love to post-9/11 meditation of The Rising. Here, amongst the Devils and Dust, he finally feels at home. He’s guilt-ridden, fascinated, angry, romantic, feeling the emotional burdens of his entire cast of working class characters, but he’s at home in this world. Though it doesn’t make sense, that’s the same way I feel about where my life is approaching right now.

I don’t know. I’m all spent on what this all means - not that I have any extra money to spend. I guess if there’s anything I take from Devils and Dust, it is that ultimate focus on what we need in a world filled with wants. Human necessities like love, God, security, health, subsistence, art, justice, they’re all different things to different people. They may be difficult to find, but this detoured-filled, mistake-lined multiple-choice search, somehow it might be worth it.


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