Wait until people who think Bruce Springsteen’s new album is overly patriotic find out Stephen Colbert isn’t actually further right than Rush Limbaugh. Today SPIN is exclusively premiering “Jack of All Trades,” and the fourth track on Wrecking Ball — the Boss’ upcoming album with the E Street Band — once again focuses on the American Dream, and once again sees that dream as betrayed. As with “We Take Care of Our Own,” the stirring rocker Springsteen and the E Street Band performed at the Grammys, “Jack of All Trades” uses enough all-American imagery to cross party lines and confuse an elite member or two — it’s populist music, in the folkie tradition of Woody Guthrie. But this time anyone who misses the underlying fury really just isn’t paying attention.
A slow, waltzing piano ballad that builds to an elegiac, horn-draped guitar solo, the six-minute “Jack of All Trades” is a tour de force of barely contained rage. Its blue-collar narrator will do whatever work he can find, and his promise — “We’ll be all right” — becomes a refrain that takes on new meanings with each passing verse, as the lyrics zoom out from the protagonist’s lonesome struggles to those of the nation at large, from hurricanes to inequality. Through this plainspoken character, Springsteen can take aim at the political establishment’s gospel of wealth using its own sanctimonious terms, fantasizing that someday “we’ll start caring for each other / Like Jesus said that we might” (how long until someone mistakenly criticizes the Boss for being too churchy?). Bankers, of course, come up for particular criticism.
And then, with about 90 seconds to go: “If I had me a gun, I’d find the bastards and shoot ’em on sight,” Springsteen intones gruffly, over an atmospheric electronic wash. Let’s be clear: Is he advocating an expansive interpretation of the Second Amendment? No. But by the time the emotion-wracked solo arrives, you might forget your own stance on gun control. Wrecking Ball hits March 6; you can pre-order it here and check out E Street’s upcoming tour dates.