Sunday, November 30, 2008

born to run skate

I'm trying to figure out why my fiance gets misty eyed at Bruce Springsteen songs. She gets all revved up to "born to run," and "thunder alleyroad," (my bad) and shakes her hair around like a terrestrial spaghetti monster, and apparently so does much of the rest of Western civilization. But I can't get much further in than tapping my foot vaguely at the better guitar licks.

There are plenty of other songs that turn my crank, so why does uber rock god, The Boss, leave me so tepid? I think, maybe, the music and lyrics conflict for me. The music is upbeat and edgy, but the lyrics are just kinda sad - they're about a lonely lunkhead who likes to drive around fast, and uh, drive around fast, who is staving off imminent Al Bundydom for a night. How? By talking a girl into joining him for an exciting evening of flirting with wrapping his engine block around a lamp post (or, if he's less lucky, smashing it through the neighbour's kid). It's like a romantic invitation to play chicken on the highway, or to stand right on the edge of a very tall building or something, just to feel some thrills. All of which is just... sad.

So what am I not getting? I think it's the cultural meaning that cars have in the states as the (not) living incarnation of freedom. If you're 16 and don't have a car, you're a caged victim stuck at your parents house, while those with wheels can explore the whole world*. I understand that, but as a guy who grew up on public transit, who has literally never owned a car in my life, only in an intellectual way. It's like how I understand that some South American tribes think it's pretty tough to paint themselves red and poke a stick through their bottom lip - I get the meaning, but not the vibe.

I try to think of my equivalents. I figure I could get myself a bit worked up about the freedom of hockey blades, how you can cut on them, carve and coast, how you can take off and reverse direction without even slowing down, all with the wind blowing through your hair - and most Americans wouldn't even get what I was talking about on that intellectual level...

So I guess that until someone writes a good song about life on ice, I'm just stuck with Arcade Fire, Pulp, and Billy Joel. Only The Good Die Young, now THERE'S a seductive song :)

* Operationally defined by most Americans people as: "my town and environs."


jb said...

These crazy car people.

Everyone knows true freedom is found on the back of a bicycle.

Ecks said...

Sing it :)

Mike D said...

I do have to disagree with you on this one, Ecks. What's unique about Bruce is the constituency for which he sings: left-of-centre, union-type, hardworking poor whites. There are entire genres of music for right-wing poor whites (country) and poor African-Americans (blues)...but the Boss speaks for people not usually addressed in American music. Check out the lyrics to "The River" or "Born in the U.S.A."

Ecks said...

Completely valid points Mike, but... I guess that given a list of: left-of-center union-type hardworking poor whites, right-wing poor whites, and poor African-Americans, I have to plead "none of the above." So I think my original point (ish) still stands... it's just a cultural disconnect - the references and images that he gets the powerful resonances with just aren't wired up the same way to my hindbrain.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's awesome that other people like it, and if there is an overlooked and shat-upon contingency of the world who get a rock star to speak to them, then super awesome and wonderful, says I. It just doesn't work for me. My loss.