The Rising

Bruce Springsteen

Columbia Records, 2002

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


It’s almost shocking to realize that it was a full decade ago that Bruce Springsteen released The Rising. For many, this album forged an immediate emotional bond in the aftermath of its primary subject matter (September 11th). In fact, The Rising’s date of release was July 30th of 2002, which wasn’t even one year after the 9/11 attacks.

The legendary story that is associated with this record is that soon after that horrific date, a fan approached Springsteen and told him, “We need you now.” The Boss responded with The Rising, and it went on to become Springsteen’s most successful album since the late ‘80s.

I was going into my junior year of high school in 2002, and was not a fan of The Boss at all. Of course I knew of the name and the reputation, but the music was not sinking in for me. The massive pre-release hype for The Rising piqued my interest, as did the talk that it was Springsteen’s 9/11 album. It’s a day whose importance has never been lost on us, but think back to those first months after it happened. Those wounds were still fresh, the shock had not worn off and would not for some time. If we are being honest, an album like The Rising was a way of moving through those feelings.

A few weeks ago, for no reason at all, thoughts of The Rising popped into my head. There was no specific trigger for it, just one of those moments where music you have not listened to in years comes back into your consciousness. That little moment really made me step back and wonder, what has a decade done to/for my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Rising? Has the passage of time weakened the emotions and response to this album?

Hindsight is 20/20, but The Rising was an acclaimed record in 2002, and time has only served to reveal that we may not have known it, but we were listening to what is most likely the last great Springsteen album. One has to think that the plea of the sorrowful fan served to inspire Bruce in a way that he may not have experienced before. It is also no coincidence that the return of the E Street Band to the studio has a little something to do with the quality.

The work Springsteen put out in the 1990’s certainly was of a certain quality...but The Rising actually saw him reach the transcendent levels of the 1970’s and early ‘80s. “The Rising” and “My City Of Ruins” are very different songs than “Born To Run,” or “The River,” but they display the way Springsteen’s art has aged gracefully. The gospel-infused majesty of “My City of Ruins” and the relatively simple structure of the title track seem the complete antithesis of the Wall Of Sound/Spector-like machinations of Springsteen’s early albums. That reckless abandon with which Springsteen And The E Street Band played is gone and never coming back; but in its place is the ability to hit the same target with a more subtle approach.

The times when Springsteen reaches back in time are the “least” successful aspects of The Rising. “Mary’s Place” clearly was meant to evoke the old live staples that were giant sing alongs, but that road has been crossed so many times there is nothing left to say (but of course, when the E Street Band is behind you, how could you not still sing?).  “Let’s Be Friends” is a fun, bouncy ditty, but similarly lacks substance. The exception to the rule is “Waiting On A Sunny Day,” which has the advantage of the big man himself, Clarence Clemons, wailing away on sax.

The quiet moments on the record speak to the heart in a different way; if anything, these are the tracks where the hurt of 9/11, the hurt of sudden loss, the hurt of cruelty come into focus. Springsteen’s delivery of “You’re Missing” cuts right through the lofty metaphors and grand statements, and brings the hurt of turning over in bed to find that the other is not there. That is a pain that many will feel, and many more will come to know.

It’s a testament to the genius of Springsteen that The Rising grapples with the rage and sense of loss that hung over this nation in the aftermath of September 11th...without really being about 9/11. The messages of resilience and overcoming grief aren’t specifically tied into direct comparisons. The songs are certainly evocative of the imagery – “Empty Sky” and “Into The Fire” will probably never escape the terrible pictures that flickered across television screens on September 11th. Yet on a whole, The Rising still has a story to tell, and a meaning even for a person who has no construct of what 9/11 was for the world.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A-



© 2012 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.