No Irony, Please, We're Bruce Fans

Springsteen's new CD set has real meaning, man

I've always found Springsteen's humanism, however authentic, hard to defend-like explaining my love for Tolstoy to a deconstructionist. For much of the rock audience, Springsteen is too retro (the "I had a job; I had a girl" business), and his obsessive moral orientation-it's always about right and wrong, guilt and innocence-puts them off. People who grew up on Pearl Jam or Nine Inch Nails can embrace Neil Young, Tom Petty or Bowie, but Springsteen has no champion among '90s stars, which is either a reflection on the hugeness of his shadow or on his irrelevance. I suspect it's more the former. Springsteen is our premier rock classicist, and rock, however anarchic it gets in attitude, is traditional in form-it's three chords behind a singer wailing about the need for love and sex and understanding, same as it ever was-and so long as new artists care about keeping life in the tradition, they'll have to contend with the man who bet everything on that tradition giving him life.

Bruce Springsteen: Tracks, Columbia Records, andBruce Springsteen: Songs, Avon Books, 304 pages. Set, $50.

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