Labor's Pains

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Bruce Springsteen - Death To My Hometown

A fuller story here:

"Death to My Hometown" is perhaps the strongest such political statement (and, to my biased ear, the strongest song) on the album, beginning as a riddle: "No bombs fell from the sky, no blood soaked the ground" but "just as sure as the hand of God they brought death to my hometown." We don't know through most of the song who brought the death Springsteen sings about in clipped, bitter tones to music that alternates between a spare, driving beat and a more lush, swinging sound with the thread of a choir just audible beneath Celtic instrumentation. But death doesn't sound like a metaphor here. He is angry and he is mourning. Then, late in the song, we get the answer: It's robber barons, "greedy thieves who came around/And ate the flesh of everything they found." They, the robber barons, brought this blood-free death, and they'll be returning. Springsteen's voice drives through the final indictment; "Whose crimes have gone unpunished now/Who walk the streets as free men now," the final "now" echoing, reinforcing that while there is a death to be mourned, there is also an ongoing injustice. The song ends with another swell of that choir—a revolution? a funeral? some of both?

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