"Bruce Springsteen is the guy that sings that song on Independence Day right? He's the dude that old men are really into? He's like, a patriot or some shit. I'm not into that."
The above quote was my younger self, being a particularly concise and utterly annoying dickwad, weighing in on a topic that I knew nothing about. It wasn't until recently that I actually gave Bruce Springsteen a chance -- which is embarrassing, sure, but to me Springsteen was always associated with saxophones and '80s riffs. I had no idea an album like Nebraska even existed in his repertoire; nor did I care if it did. I had Springsteen shoved down my throat recently. His entire catalog was tossed into my gullet and forced down with whiskey, and now that I've had to digest it all, I still feel essentially the same about the majority of his work, with the exception of Nebraska and a few other random songs.
What Nebraska does that other Springsteen albums don't, is keep the sound and atmosphere low-key. Where Springsteen usually tends to follow the "more is more" school of rock, this album actually holds back on a lot of his trademarks. It sounds better to me. It's a great album, as I'm sure most people already know. But I'm slogging behind the times, and just realizing it now. I'd heard references to it for so long, it was inevitable I'd give it a real, hearty listen at some point. It was the perfect soundtrack to this winter, and I'm a bit sad to see it leave the rotation as summer hits and the sounds I surround myself with get a bit bubblier.
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What exactly is it about Springsteen that kept me away for so long? Why didn't I heed the advice to listen to Nebraska sooner? It was certainly a bit of cockiness, probably a little self-restraint, too. I knew in the back of my head that if I heard this album, which all of these other great records are constantly compared to, I wouldn't like this new music anymore because it wouldn't be new. It would be a rip-off. It wouldn't be as good as Nebraska. I was right in my fear; finally listening to this record, I can see where other bands have pulled from it. I can't blind myself to its influence anymore, which is too bad, because more than a few records from more recent bands just sound boring now. Not as good. Worthless even.
Listening to great records you ignored can be a good thing, but sometimes, when they're nearly perfect, it makes everything else unlistenable for a time. Nebraska will do that at first, if it hasn't really seeped into your consciousness yet. I'm doubtful I was the last holdout, though. I can't be the only one who waited, feared and put off this record.
Or was I?