Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel of Love
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2011
Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love has been in heavy rotation for months. I know I said some pretty nasty things about the Boss in my write up of Born to Run, and I’ve been meaning to revisit that alleged classic because fuck, how could I harsh on the Boss? At least that’s what’s running through my head listening to “Tougher Than the Rest” which is one of my new favorite love songs of all time. It so excellently captures that willing to fight for somebody attitude without sounding corny or sentimental. Yet there’s a sense of dread to it with that ominous drum machine foreshadowing a bit of love gone wrong, but at the moment. This is a divorce album, pretty much, and I love me a good divorce album and I can’t believe I’d never heard that song before. It’s almost embarrassing. Fuck, I can’t believe I’d never heard this album before that one day at the end of winter when all the snow was melting on the roof of Half Price Books and dripping into the break room. The CD player was out of commission and we were playing records on the little all in one record player CD player at the register. I took it home that day and now we listen to it all the time. “Brilliant Disguise” was another hit I’d never heard before, and it really kinda sealed the deal on this record for me. Somehow, the Boss manages to circumvent all the cheesiness of 80s production on this one because his songs are just so damn good. The synths on “Tougher Than the Rest” are used as elegantly as if they were organic and those sort of “Fuck yes” fist to the heart lines like “The road is dark/ And it’s a thin thin line/ But I want you to know I’ll walk it for you any time” add a sort of timelessness that almost every well produced record from the 80s has a hard time achieving because everyone was obsessed with technology and horrible sax interludes (note: I’ve reconsidered my criticisms of the sax usage on Born to Run, because the Boss totally pulls it off). Tunnel of Love has shit kickers (“Spare Parts”), sensitive heartbreak ballads (“Cautious Man”) and OK, the title track has the corniest synths on the album but goddamn if that hook isn’t the jam. There’s an overall sense of sadness on this album that’s the kind of sadness a real man feels. A sort of hyper-masculinity that isn’t abhorrent but kind of satisfying because there’s also that thread of vulnerability that runs through the record. The Boss manages to lay out his bare emotions without looking like a sucker or a sap.
Here's a lovely cover of "Tougher Than the Rest" by Camera Obscura. Jenny says, "She sounds better here than she does on their records." Dunno about that, but I do love the Scottish inflection and how despite being cuter, that ballsy-ness is still there:
But, you know: