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Two Value Judgements And A Dance Step: Thinking About Ariel Swartley Thinking About E Street Before Tonights Concert

One of the pleasures in waiting for Bruce Springsteen’s concert tonight in which is he playing his  almost nothing but fun The Wild, The Innocent, And th E Street Shuffle in its entirely was going back to listen to the album for the first in a decade.

I mean really listen. Sure I’VE HEARD shufle, rosie, sandy over the years. Sometimes I’ll stick the one two punch “Incident On 57th Street”/””Rosalista” on a party mix. But I haven’t sat down and thought about it, listened about it. It stands up real good, better  than The Rising. Not only is it timeless in a way his 21st century hasn’t proven to be, it is also smart politically in a way he isn’t any more.

Journalist Ariel Swartley called it  two value judgements and a dance step in a phrase so clever, so rightt, so excitting, anybody who loves rock or loves writing or loves both hears ringing in the back of their mind from the moment they first heard it.

The reference comes from an article she wronte for Greil Marcus’ compiliation Stranded . In Stranded Marcus asked the cream of the rock critic establishment what the one album they’d take if they were going to a a desert island. Lester Bang’s wrote his mystical essay on Astral Weeks and Marcus himself wrote the greatest line ever written about the Beach Boys. I can’t find the exact quote but how about the Beach Boys were about five girls in search of californian girls but only to validate their honor.

Swartley’s urban teenage jungle ties Bob Dylan to Little Eva and Leonard Bernstein and let’s us all in on the fun. “I’m gonna be a sucker for some one who takes rock and roll as a religion, and romanticisez the hell out of the details” she warns and then proceeds to do so just as much as Bruce himself does.

Swartley sees Springsteen on Shuffle as the ground where the early sixties dance music and the later poetic rock meet. It’s a nice conceit and she proves it but not always. When she does her writing flies here: Ariel discussing the end of “The E Street Shuffle” “The songs final scene has the hypernaturalism of a closing shot in a grade B western: ‘He slips on his jeans and they move on out to the scene – all the kids are there’ – That string of adverbs is as deliberate as  a walk into the sunset. It’s a hero exit except the boy-prophet is on his way to the hop”.  The lyricism in that parapraph matches the lyricism of Springsteens lyric. They don’t write like that any more.

And Swartley says Springsteen  “triggers memories like you were a jukebox and he was the man with all the quarters” and she does the precise same thing. The music, the history, of a certain sort of rock world collides together and now it is accepted, it is the way we see pop but it wasn’t when Ariel connected the dots here five years after the albums release.

The review is part of the rock criticism canon now, deservedly so. And the album really does remain a great piece of work though, er, was “New York Serenade” always that long and tedious?

Ms. Swartley moved to LA a coupla decades ago where she writes for LA Weekly and the New York times and recently completed a residency at the Montalvo Arts center.

The review can be read on line at google books for free.  I found it by googling Greil Marcus Stranded The Wild the innocent and the e street shuffle. The url goes on for days or i’d post that.

Can’t wait for tonights show…

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