It’s hard to really quantify anything that came out in the 80s as dark. As this was the decade that gave us MTV, the whole concept of rock and roll was about to get a much glitzier makeover than what had come before. Between the neon-colored mess that’s been the better part of the decade, that didn’t mean there weren’t sore spots to be found, either.
From the start of the decade to its final year, there were artists looking to push the boundaries of what you could even do on a rock album. Whether it was through some weird concept behind the album or just some depressing sounding songs, these were the kind of albums that got a whole lot wilder than most people were ready for, that also became a playground. food once things like the PMRC became more active as the years passed.
It’s also not really hard to see why these albums caused a stir back in the day, some of them sounding vile and disturbing even listening to them these days. You can just imagine how they must have sounded then. It wasn’t just a bunch of nice songs thrown in a decent order. They were musicians trying to unleash hell on Earth and almost succeeding in the process.
In the years when metal and hardcore punk were starting to take off, we’re not exactly on the darkest ground of an album all about acoustic guitar. Since most of the E Street Band is gone, this Springsteen album has a lot more in common with a Bob Dylan album, with just detuned guitar, harmonica and his vocals to keep things going. If you write dark enough songs, it can make any instrument dangerous.
Being in a much more vulnerable place than before, it’s the Boss after riding through the whirlwind of the fame machine, with much more tired songs and focusing on the seedier side of life in America. From song to song, these characters are far from happy, nor does it seem like they’ll meet a good fate, like the jaded brother who lets his brother loose in Highway Patrolman or the doomed death of the title track.
Even when it’s not as serious as those songs, there are still sentimental songs with a bit of heartache, like when Bruce tries to reconnect with his old man on My Father’s House only to find his dad has moved out. and he might not be able to see him again forever. Compared to the life-affirming music of E Street, it’s a heavy dose of reality that we might not have been ready for yet. These songs are basically the feeling of growing up and realizing that maybe things aren’t perfect anymore and it’s never going to be back to normal again.