Man, wasn’t Bruce Springsteen awesome on Sunday? It got me thinking, as Kurt Warner failed to ascend to heaven atop the Steelers’ D, who’s our Bruce Springsteen? Depending on the magazine, Conor Oberst or Kevin Devine is our generation’s Bob Dylan ‘- but Springsteen is (very arguably) just as important to rock. Yet he doesn’t have a modern counterpart. Let’s change that.
The first candidate is Win Butler of The Arcade Fire. A native Texan among a band of Canadians, Butler is an openly obsessed Springsteen fan ‘- hell, ‘Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)’ is ‘Atlantic City.’ His poetic voice is inspired by the Boss (re: ‘Antichrist Television Blues’) but is much more scared, passive and na’iuml;ve. Butler would never have written ‘Born to Run,’ but on Inauguration Day, he sounded at home covering ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ Butler represents the dystopian sadness of ‘Nebraska’-era Springsteen. But Win is not Bruce; he’s just emulating him. Butler has no desire to be a rock star; Bruce’s core desire for the past 30 years has been to be the biggest rock star in the world. Butler is, at best, a good copy of Springsteen’s sound. Butler is really today’s Jackson Browne, whose career goal was to be Bruce.
Who else, then? Brandon Flowers. The Killers’ frontman is the postmodern equivalent of Bruce. He is from Vegas, which is today’s Asbury Park, New Jersey. ‘Somebody Told Me’ is the modern ‘Thunder Road.’ It’s not obvious, but listen closely. Flowers plays the keyboard, which is the new guitar. Aesthetically, Flowers and Springsteen are exact opposites, but that’s the point. No teen is looking for an American ‘everyman’ character that just wants to take his high school sweetheart off the front porch and strap her around his ‘motorcycle’ engines. That was 1972. It’s 2009. We are looking for a hazy star with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, riding a wave of late 90s glitz and happiness into the age of fear. Springsteen and Flowers are, for lack of a better term, bone-crushingly cool versions of the men we want to be. The Arcade Fire is not cool. Important ‘- not cool, just like Jackson Browne. Plus, Flowers is 5,000 times the sex symbol Butler is.
So Brandon Flowers is our Bruce Springsteen. Why on Earth is this important? Because, in rock culture, respect for one’s elders is everything. We idolize Springsteen and Dylan for their contributions to rock ‘n’ roll. Rightly so. But because of this time spent revering, many of us dismiss modern rock groups as being irrelevant. In 30 years though, all the old rock godfathers will be dead. No more earth shattering Super Bowl appearances. We will have Butler, Flowers and Oberst. They’ll be performing ‘Rebellion (Lies)’ for stadium crowds. And unless you want to be an old rock curmudgeon for the waning years of your life, you had better keep in mind that The Killers’ ‘Day & Age’ might be our ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town.’ Or embrace electronica. Nobody wants that.