Thursday, December 03, 2009

Tunnel of Love

While Bruce Springsteen is best known to the masses for his declamatory, rabble-rousing stance and an astute chronicler of the times and troubles of the American everyman, there is another side to The Boss which might not be readily apparent at first.

This Springsteen taps a subtler artistic vein, telling stories of desperados on the run, relationships that turned out wrong, and other more understated subjects. 'Nebraska' from 1982, 'The Ghost of Tom Joad' from 1995 and 'Devils and Dust' from 2005 are all valid showcases for this particular sensibility, but the one album that really does the trick is 'Tunnel of Love' from 1987, which examines the wreckage of an expired relationship.

'Tunnel of Love' manages to take in all the various uncertaintites and turmoils of that exigent thing called love: unrequited feelings ('Ain’t Got You', 'Tougher Than the Rest'), emotional turmoil ('Cautious Man', 'Tunnel of Love'), romantic disillusionment ('When You’re Alone', 'All That Heaven Will Allow'), marital infidelity ('Two Faces', 'Brilliant Disguise') and hard-won, if utterly bitter acceptance (the emotionally wrenching 'One Step Up', the brilliant and darkly ominous closer 'Valentine’s Day'). In hindsight, Peter Gabriel’s 1992 masterwork 'Us' is perhaps the only work that can match 'Tunnel of Love' in its extensive explorations of the entire spectrum of romantic turbulence.

The Boss decided to keep his regular E Street Band on the sidelines for 'Tunnel of Love', making the album an unassuming, low-key work that relies mostly on acoustic instrumentation and shaded production values. This translates into arguably Springsteen’s most rounded and cohesive effort, without any of the giant-sized guitar riffs, cavernous rhythm sections and Wall of Sound production qualities that characterised more popular efforts like 'Born to Run', 'The River' and 'Born in the USA'.


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