Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel Of Love

Tunnel Of Love (1987)

B

1. Ain’t Got You 2. Tougher Than The Rest 3. All That Heaven Will Allow 4. Spare Parts 5. Cautious Man 6. Walk Like A Man 7. Tunnel Of Love 8. Two Faces 9. Brilliant Disguise 10. One Step Up 11. When You’re Alone 12. Valentine’s Day

 

And thus begins the relatively brief and oft-maligned period of time during which Bruce began to focus his songwriting spectacles inward rather than outward – toward hard workin’ factory men, circus freaks, all those streetwise youths with dumb nicknames, hell anyone and anything other than himself and his piddling romantic life. Like, come on, Bruce, nobody cares how your marriage is going; they want you to sing about their own lives instead because people think world revolves around them. Probably because you had spent the last decade and a half constructing an elaborate musical fantasy in which average schlubs were the center of the universe! So hearing you sing about the saga of how you left your hot actress wife for your hot backup singer pained your heart so very much was probably a bit jarring.

It’s for that reason that, as a standalone thing, Tunnel of Love was actually kind of a fascinating and bold departure for Bruce at the time it came out, even though in virtually any other circumstance, one would be hard pressed to classify “a white guy from New Jersey in his mid-30s singing about his relationship along to ‘80s keyboards and acoustic guitars” as either “fascinating” or “bold.” After all, Bruce had been built up for years as the Voice of the Common People (mostly by the media, to be fair). And what’s the very first verse on Tunnel of Love?

I got the fortunes of heaven in diamonds and gold
I got all the bonds baby that the bank could hold
I got houses ‘cross the country honey end to end
And everybody buddy wants to be my friend
Well I got all the riches baby any man ever knew
But the only thing I ain’t got honey I ain’t got you

Well, goddamn, Bruce, we knew you were doing pretty well after that influx of Born in the U.S.A dough, but do ya have to go rubbing it in our faces like that? Bruce is a smart guy, and he surely didn’t intend for “Ain’t Got You” to ready like the hearty “FUCK YOU” to his fans it might come across as (well, other than those fans who would prefer for him to put more effort into his songwriting than the approximately 47 mindless seconds it must have taken him to throw together this barely arranged two-minute Bo Diddley knock-off). But it’s clearly intended as an announcement that Tunnel of Love is a different kind of Springsteen album.

And that doesn’t just mean the lyrical content – as it features extremely minimal contributions from the E Street Band or any other musicians, Tunnel is, like Nebraska, considered a Bruce “solo album.” However, unlike Nebraska, Tunnel is fully fleshed out mid-tempo keyboard pop, just with Bruce playing most of the instruments himself. Ain’t no rough lo-fi edges on this thing – it’s so smooth and commercial it’s practically adult contemporary. Hence, it went multiplatinum and spawned one of Bruce’s biggest hit singles in “Brilliant Disguise.” Which is entirely deserved, actually – it’s possibly the most infectious melody he’s ever come up with, and it makes a keen point about the emotional masks we all wear, even around those with whom we’re supposed to be the most intimate. The album’s other hit single, the title track, is similarly excellent even if those blippy synths and the over-the-top Miami Vice style guitar solo are even more dated.

Honestly, though, the relaxed atmosphere and preponderance of pillowy soft keyboard tones aren’t the reason why this album is a bit of step down from what Bruce had produced to this point. Rather, it’s because there are too many songs on here, specifically on the first side, that are themselves fluff irrespective of the production styles. “All That Heaven Will Allow” and “Walk Like a Man” are just incredibly corny from a melodic standpoint, and “Spare Parts” is an utterly dopey faux-blues rock workout that sounds like something James Dolan, our nation’s most authentic bluesman, to come up with. Speaking of whom, do Dan Snyder or Jeffrey Loria play any instruments? The two of them should team up with Dolan to create a power trio the likes of which the world has never seen called “The Shittiest, Most Morally Bankrupt Owners in Sports Band.” I would pay to see them bust out classics like “Trollin’ Melo’s Twitter Account” and “Tryin’ to Get Out of Payin’ Giancarlo’s $300 Million Contract Blues.”

Fortunately, side two has more of an edge to it, and the run of songs from the title track through the penultimate “When You’re Alone” (closer “Valentine’s Day” is a bit of a drag) is probably as melodically sound as any five-song stretch on Born in the U.S.A. In addition to the aforementioned classics “Brilliant Disguise” and “Tunnel of Love,” we also get the sorta dark and folksy (!) “Two Faces” and swaying “One Step Up,” which for some reason gets stuck in my head about as often as any other Bruce song, even though I basically never listen to Tunnel of Love. It’s just a really well-constructed melody! Just a terrific melody. The best melody you’ve ever heard. Magnificent. People are telling me it’s just a great, great melody that’s doing a remarkable job, more and more. We’re going to have so much of this melody, you’re going to be sick of it. It’s a shame there hasn’t been more of this melody already. Sad!



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