Not too many recording artists can pull off the whistle solo. John Lennon used it to charming effect on “Jealous Guy,” and Peter Gabriel’s pucker-riff heightened the creepiness of “Games Without Frontiers.” Bruce Springsteen, however, is not one of those artists. When he whistles his way through the middle of his new album’s title song, the effect is jarring — like a Disney children’s song wedged into a steelworker documentary.
Likewise, not too many songwriters can write about supermarkets. The Clash and the Jam pulled it off, but Springsteen’s “Queen of the Supermarket” is as close to self-parody as he’s ever come. The biggest insight we glean from this overwrought debacle is that Bruce is such a horndog that he can’t buy a can of tuna at Piggly Wiggly without obsessing over the checkout girl.
Apart from the superhooky “Surprise Surprise,” Dream comes off like a weak sister to 2007’s Magic, which found Springsteen regaining his “Hungry Heart”-era pop-rock mojo. Ultimately, the most audacious thing about this album is the fact that Springsteen took a fluffball country song and actually named it “Tomorrow Never Knows.” That kind of audacity doesn’t give me much hope.