Bruce Springsteen has reached back to the 1970s on his latest album, The Promise,which collects previously unreleased tracks written in the years before the release of Darkness on the Edge of Town. Springsteen said that with Darkness, he “wanted to be great,” and whittled a wealth of over 70 songs down to the final ten.
That’s not to say that the songs that didn’t make the cut did so because of a lack of quality—only that they didn’t fit with the blue-collar class study that Springsteen wanted to cultivate. Some of the material were comprised of factory-boy blues—like “The Promise”—and some of the material is just electric-piano love balladry, a la “Ain’t Good Enough For You.”
The innate jumping enthusiasm here is vintage Springsteen. Everything about the instrumentation recaptures the spirit of the E Street Band when they were being hailed as the future of rock, and Springsteen’s deeply aged voice creates a current of regret and, strangely, immaturity; as a portrait of two parallel phases of The Boss’s career and outlook, it shines.
On the other hand, the song has exactly one chord progression repeated pretty much without variation for three and a half minutes. So, while it functions very well as a historical benchmark—and sounds quite pretty and vintage—it’s also a little monotonous.
It’s not that Springsteen and the band have any less ability to bring the energy—every minute is possessed by a stripped-down excitement—but despite that passion, “Ain’t Good Enough For You” just doesn’t have enough variation to captivate the attention of anyone but The Boss’s biggest fans.