Friday, May 4, 2012

Girls in Their Summer Clothes

"The girls in their summer clothes
In the cool of the evening light
Girls in their summer clothes
Pass me by"

Over on Facebook, Scott and I are counting down the Top 50 Bruce Springsteen songs in alphabetical order. Hopefully, when complete, the list will run here someday. Hopefully. Hope is a good thing, Red.

Anyways, we just got to “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” as part of our countdown (yeah, we’re only on the Gs. What of it?) It’s not an obscure song—it’s newer (2007) and all, though fans seem to appreciate it—but it’s not exactly one of the first, say, few dozen songs you think about when you think of Bruce Springsteen.

What a song, though. As if Bruce spent a day with Brian Wilson (in a good way), walking along the beach and then later exploring some warm, breezy pop stylings in the studio. This is a close to a Pet Sounds sound as Bruce ever came, with layers of guitars and keyboards and effortless timekeeping by Max and Brendan O’Brien’s lush and glossy production. At once hopeful (“Things been a little tight, but I know they’re gonna turn on my way”) and then suddenly mournful (“She went away — she cut me like a knife”) and then back to hopeful again right away (“Hello beautiful thing — maybe you just saved my life.”) When Bruce shows you more than one side of the coin, the results are almost always impressive.

And then there’s the video, which I found and posted on Facebook and I’d almost forgotten about. Because sadly, these days I just don't think about music videos anywhere near as often as I once did.

Bruce has never made a prettier vid, and this is certainly in the running for the prettiest videos ever produced.

A gruff but resolute Bruce walks along a chilly early summer beach under hazy sunshine all alone, through a light fog as the waves crash in foamy white splendor. Sand-drawn hearts disappear as the water takes them out to sea. Seagulls fly and in and out of the frame in chaotic precision. The video shifts from whitewashed tones to black and white to brilliant, popping blues and reds. Angelic images mesh with windswept beach scenes as Bruce sings, sometimes with a guitar, sometimes not. And intertwined with these shots over and over, but never once in the same shot as Bruce, are the girls.

Old ones, young ones, black ones, white ones, some running, some posing, all quickly in and out of the frame with a smile or a knowing gaze, or sometimes both. Bruce has spent so much of his life as a singer/songwriter watching the pretty girls and pursuing them, it was about time he put as many of them as possible into one hypnotically lovely video. And what’s fascinating is the way the video echoes the song: the girls he sings about all “pass me by,” leaving him alone. There are dozens of comely female faces that pop up in the four minutes of this video. None of them are with our singer. That’s a perfect touch, one that wonderfully conveys the song’s ethereal mix of melancholy and whimsy.

My favorite part of the video comes around the 2:41 mark, just after the bridge, as Bruce sings “Hello beautiful thing…” Four shots come, all in a row. The first is Bruce, alone by a pier, sans guitar, beckoning the “beautiful thing” to come to him. The next is a positively stunning young woman shot in closeup, smiling sweetly amidst a fog that breezes past her, which is then followed by a statue of an angel, nearly bleached out in the sunlight. Finally we are back to Bruce, now with guitar and familiar cocksure pose, again singing straight into the camera about “Just a glance….”

Only about 7 seconds pass in this time, yet so much ground is covered. The longing for closeness from the singer, followed by two stark ideals that have played such tremendous roles throughout Bruce’s career: the gorgeous face and the literal angel, neither of which stay around longer than a glancing vision. Finally, we have the confident and driven singer again, alone with the guitar, ready to move on after one more glance. It’s a wondrous sequence that spotlights the fleeting sense of romance that Bruce has been chasing for his whole career.

As the video fades into a chorus of “La la la las” and more images of the girls hit the screen and run away, Bruce ends up as he started. By himself on the beach, bathed in sunlight. Alone for now, but ever hopeful.

1 comment:

  1. The only problem with the video is that I can't look at statues of angels without thinking of the Weeping Angels from Doctor Who....