The E Street Shuffle: Bruce Springsteen’s messy, flamboyant, life-affirming second album

In 1973, when Bruce Springsteen presented his completed second LP The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle to Charles Koppelman at Columbia Records, he was told in no uncertain terms that the record would be a commercial flop. With its scruffy musicianship and lengthy, sprawling songs, the album would, Koppelman believed, kill Springsteen’sContinue reading “The E Street Shuffle: Bruce Springsteen’s messy, flamboyant, life-affirming second album”

2021: the Year of Climate Change Music

For as long as there has been protest, there have been protest songs. Yet the greatest threat to humanity’s survival, an existential emergency facing every last one of us, has wormed its way into relatively little of our music. While Neil Young watched ‘Mother Nature on the run in the 1970s’, Joni Mitchell warned ‘youContinue reading “2021: the Year of Climate Change Music”

Revisiting Taylor Swift’s Red

Last week Taylor Swift released her newly re-recorded version of her 2012 album Red. I look back on why this ‘happy, free, confused and lonely’ record remains her best work to date. ‘Like driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street’: this is how Taylor Swift describes a doomed love affair on Red’s title track,Continue reading “Revisiting Taylor Swift’s Red”

Solar Power, Folklore and the Dream of Escape

Whether it’s flinging your phone into the ocean or fleeing to the mountains, singers are calling on us to abandon the digital world and embrace nature. But is this escape into the outdoors a radical act of rebellion or an unattainable fantasy? ‘I’m not cut out for all these cynical drones, / these hunters withContinue reading “Solar Power, Folklore and the Dream of Escape”

The Raincoats, and the imperfect humanity of music

If the ethos of punk rock was to rip up the hit-making rulebook, strip back the gloss and the excess, and value raw fervour over technical accuracy, then the Raincoats, formed in 1977 by then novice musicians Ana da Silva and Gina Birch, were perhaps the punkest of the punk. Their band took the homemadeContinue reading “The Raincoats, and the imperfect humanity of music”

Joni Mitchell’s Blue: 50 years of a perfect album

On the title track, a deep, melancholy abyss at the heart of the album, Mitchell compares songs to tattoos: permanent, personal, close. ‘Hey, Blue’, she sings, ‘there is a song for you, ink on a pin / underneath the skin / an empty space to fill in.’ Within Blue, every space is filled in withContinue reading “Joni Mitchell’s Blue: 50 years of a perfect album”