Acclaimed Albums – Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 172/250Title: Nebraska
Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Year: 1982
Position: #131

Between the increasingly packed trains cutting down on my reading time and a new subscription to Stitcher Premium (where I have been devouring the archive episodes of Dr Gameshow) there has been little time left for list albums. Doesn’t help that I am very particular about the types of albums that I like to listen to when I work, which is a long way of saying that my album listening has really begun to slow down.

The main thing on the work menu today was writing documentation, which means podcasts are completely out the window and I could pick something bloggy to listen to. Rather than continue my run of listening to the oldest thing left, I thought it would be good to listen to something relatively more recent – and so I’ve ended up with Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen.

This is the third of four Springsteen albums for the Top 250 and I’ll wager it is the most depressing (and possibly most evocative) of the albums. This doesn’t have a big single like ‘Born To Run’ or ‘Dancing In The Dark’, but that’s kinda the point of Nebraska.

This album is predicated on telling the stories of ordinary people who live humdrum lives or are in less than ideal circumstances. Focuses of the songs include a man about to face the electric chair (‘Nebraska’, a man facing 99 years in prison (‘Johnny 99’) and someone driving through the night to see his sweetheart (‘Open All Night’).

The whole album is mostly a sombre affair, even the jaunty tiffs on ‘Johnny 99’ hide something fairly macabre. Considering the music that Springsteen is famous for producing, Nebraska is a pretty severe left turn. It’s also an incredibly admirable one.

I don’t know if it’s my own maturation since starting this blog, my growing familiarity with Springsteen’s music or this album in particular – but I think Nebraska would be my favourite Bruce Springsteen album so far. The change in direction and mood work so well as does the sparseness of the arrangements (which is typically just a vocal track, a guitar and maybe a harmonica). Whilst I do love some lush production values, this album really is an example of how to do more with less.

His final album on the list (Born in the USA) will be back to Springsteen giving me the music that his is most famous for. It’s also the album that I am going into with the most prior knowledge… so it’ll be interesting to see how it stacks up against Nebraska.


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