Tracks of the Decade: “My City of Ruins” by Bruce Springsteen

cp-springsteen2“My City of Ruins”
by Bruce Springsteen
from THE RISING

Many great songs, through whatever transcendent quality they possess, remain in the collective consciousness for years and are thus finally afforded the status of “classic” through sheer timelessness. “My City of Ruins”, on the other hand, is an undeniable classic forever stuck in one moment, time-bound to the dark days immediately following 9/11. Although the Boss wrote the track as a tribute to Asbury Park, NJ, it was adapted into a post-trauma canticle of resilience for the people of New York City. To be sure, it IS a great song, but for an evening in 2001 it became America’s song, as Springsteen delivered it during the AMERICA: A TRIBUTE TO HEROES telethon. Featuring a revivalistic progression for the ages, the song stands as a return to the grand symbolic gesture that Springsteen so ably employed during his early artistic achievements. (In a way, it also marks the artistic revival of his career after a bleak 15 year run.) “My City of Ruins” registers with all the spiritual power and the glory of “The Star Spangled Banner”, but crosses from the realm of mere patriotism into anthemic humanism. If there ever was such a thing as a rock and roll hymn, “My City of Ruins” resurrected the form, mustering all the vigor, hope, and consolence of “Hey Jude.” When The Boss calls you to “Rise up!”, you feel like you might reach the cathedral rafters. Seeming to possess the ability to bind up wounds and heal the broken-hearted, “My City of Ruins” is a rare achievement in rock and roll, the sonic marker for an historical sea change. One of The Boss’ greatest achievements.

Tracks of the Decade: “NYC” by Interpol

interpol_hattem_1“NYC”
by Interpol
from TURN ON THE BRIGHT LIGHTS (2002)

With New York City increasingly figuring as the all-encompassing and transcendent symbol of the modern world, it seems truly appropriate that the best song about the City of Man this decade was not Ryan Adams’ bouncy city-as-girl ode “New York, New York” but Interpol’s wounded hymn “NYC.” The Shelleyian aesthetic lumbers awkwardly forward in the swirling, echo-laden guitars and in Paul Banks’ paranoid croon, the atmosphere created serving to bring to life the nature of the city that never sleeps. Lyrically and melodically, it hints at the urban-lonesome work of Simon & Garfunkel songs like “The Boxer” and, appropriately, “The Only Living Boy in New York.” Banks sounds decisively lost in a world that is simultaneously spell-binding and terrifying. It’s as if Gershwin’s musical kaleidoscope has devolved into cold black and white hues. “New York cares” Banks howls. But for whom?