Local quartet Mean Creek has gladly accepted the role of Boston’s chief rock ambassador in recent years, whether that has meant taking its set down to Austin each March for SXSW, hitting the road with bands like Counting Crows, or helping to provide acts like So So Glos and Hard Nips a gateway into Boston. With last week’s release of the band’s latest album, “Local Losers,” Mean Creek continues to be the ideal band to fill that position.

Like previous efforts, the band feeds off of the energy of Chris Keene and Aurore Ounjian, whose dynamic is unmistakable– shouting choruses, trading leads, and letting their respective personalities thread. What is special about this release is that, in comparison to 2012’s “Youth Companion,” “Local Losers” is kind of its punked out, over caffeinated little brother. Only one song hits the three minute mark, channeling direct influences like Allston pals Earthquake Party! or even picking up some tendencies from the aforementioned So So Glos. It’s a beautiful record that encompasses the gazy gleam of ’90s buzz rock on tracks like “Johnny Allen,” with more heartfelt odes, a style mastered at this point by Keene, on tunes like “My Madeline.” The great thing about this album though, is its pace. The band manages to squeeze in a pleasant dose of sentiment while dodging more tempered balladry. Before you know it, or even want it to be, the album is over, and that might just be a really good sign.

You can check out “Local Losers,” out now on Old Flame Records, and don’t miss the band’s album release show at Middle East Downstairs on April 25 with Pile, Ovlov, Heliotropes, and Young Leaves, but in the meantime, Chris Keene from Mean Creek put together our Midweek Playlist for this week. Seeing as Bruce Springsteen is a major influence on Mean Creek, and because there’s really no bad excuse to listen to more of The Boss, Keene’s playlist is a tribute to the man in jeans.

“From 1973 to 1987 Bruce Springsteen & The E Street band released a run of eight incredible studio albums unmatched by anyone,” he says. “Here’s my pick for my favorite song on each one of those eight albums.”


“For You” from “Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ” (1973)
“Springsteen was still figuring some things out on his first two albums. On his third album, ‘Born To Run,’ he discovers who he truly is, what he wants to say, and exactly how he wants to say it. Before all that though, there was his second album ‘The Wild, The Innocent, & The E Street Shuffle,’ and his debut album ‘Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ.’ Both have plenty of great songs, and hint at the potential that would soon fully blossom. There are a lot of songs I really love on ‘Greetings.’ ‘Growin’ Up’ perfectly captures that magical feeling of discovery you have as you come of age. ‘Mary Queen Of Arkansas’ is a hauntingly beautiful acoustic song that predates ‘Nebraska’ by 10 years. On it, Springsteen sings ‘the big top is for dreamers, we can take the circus all the way to the border.’ Little did he know, a couple years later he would do just that when ‘Born To Run’ became a hit and landed him on the cover of ‘Time’ and ‘Newsweek’ simultaneously. For me though, ‘For You’ is my favorite song on ‘Greetings.’ It documents a relationship that never really comes to fruition, a series of bad timing, missed chances, and miscommunication. One person chasing the other as the other shies away, and then vice versa. A lot of falling in love with someone is based on timing, and both of you experiencing that connection simultaneously. Sometimes no matter how much you care about someone or want to be with them, it’s just not meant to be, and this song articulates the heartbreaking aspect of that kind of situation perfectly. There is an unbelievable live version on the ‘Hammersmith Odeon’ concert album from London in 1975. Springsteen plays the song solo on the piano and slows it down to turn it into an eight minute epic. I highly recommend checking it out.”

“4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” from “The Wild The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle” (1973)
“As huge of a Springsteen fan as I am, I was never a big fan of ‘The Wild, The Innocent, & The E Street Shuffle.’ It sounds like he is grasping for something, but getting lost along the way, and I have trouble getting into the ’70s style guitar noodling on it. That being said, there are still plenty of incredible songs on it. He hasn’t left the boardwalk yet, and these songs are strongly rooted in that Asbury Park environment. ‘4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)’ was always my favorite song on the album. I remember riding in my friend’s car in high school on a summer night with this song turned up loud. It perfectly matched that magical, comforting, exciting feeling of those kinds of summer nights with your friends and/or potential loves. He brings you right there with him. You don’t have to be from Asbury Park to know exactly what he’s singing about. You feel it in your bones as soon as he sings ‘Sandy, the fireworks are hailing over Little Eden tonight, forcing a light into all those stony faces left stranded on this warm July.'”

“Backstreets” from “Born To Run” (1975)
“Everything was on the line for Springsteen on the ‘Born To Run’ album. It was a make or break situation. Columbia Records had already invested in 2 commercial flops and if this one followed down that same path, he would surely be dropped. Thankfully, artistically it was the culmination of everything he had worked on becoming his entire life up until that point. It feels like he finally finds his voice here, and what a voice it is. Every song is an epic. You can’t put it into words, you just have to hear it for yourself. ‘Thunder Road’ is perhaps the most beautiful song ever written. My personal favorite on the album though is ‘Backstreets.’ You can hear all of his fear, love, pain, and joy all happening at once told through a beautiful story of friendship that would go on to last Springsteen his entire life. ‘One soft infested summer, me and Terry became friends, trying in vain to breathe the fire we were born in.’ He had been playing music since he was kid, with many of the same people in the E Street Band. It had been years of trying to break free of his small town trappings and find something better. ‘Remember all the movies, Terry, we’d go see, trying to learn how to walk like the heroes we thought we had to be, but after all this time to find we’re just like all the rest, stranded on the boardwalk and forced to confess to hiding on the backstreets.’ There’s a lot of fear in those words. Thankfully for Springsteen, if he was in fact from a ‘town full of losers,’ on this album there was no longer any doubt, he was ‘pulling out of here to win.'”

“Something In The Night” from “Darkness On The Edge Of Town” (1978)
“In high school I was a casual fan of Springsteen’s music. I had his ‘Greatest Hits’ album and enjoyed it. Around the age of 20, I was at my friend Melissa’s house. She put on her copy of the ‘Darkness On The Edge Of Town’ album and something inside me just clicked. I finally ‘got’ Bruce Springsteen. There was something deeper happening on ‘Darkness’ and it hit me hard. After the success of ‘Born To Run,’ Springsteen spent years in court fighting his soon to be ex-manager Mike Appel for the rights to his songs, and he wasn’t allowed in a recording studio that entire time. By the time they began the recording sessions for ‘Darkness,’ he had amassed a massive 70 potential songs for the album. They would eventually break it down to 10. Everyone always talks about ‘Nebraska’ being Springsteen’s stark masterpiece documenting the American struggle. I always wonder if those people have listened to ‘Darkness.’ What do you do when you finally achieve your dream just to have someone rip it out from under you? On ‘Something In The Night,’ Springsteen sings, ‘Well you’re born with nothing, and better off that way. As soon as you got something they send someone to try to take it away.’ He’s no longer a kid on this album. Nothing is black and white anymore. ‘Something In The Night’ is a brutal song about the American struggle. Nothing on ‘Nebraska’ hits me as hard as the end of this song. With just a bass drum under his voice, Springsteen sings ‘When we found the things we loved, they were crushed and dying in the dirt. We tried to pick up the pieces and get away without getting hurt, but they caught us at the state line, burned our cars in one last fight, and left us running burned and blind, chasing something in the night.’ Sometimes no matter how hard you work, or no matter what you accomplish, you’re still left with nothing. The world isn’t always fair, and things don’t always work out or go according to plan. It’s something everyone realizes as they become a man or a woman. It is a sad and frustrating realization, but that doesn’t make it any less true. All of that sadness and frustration is represented beautifully here, in this song and on this album. It connected with my own fears about my life, and it turned a 20 year old casual Springsteen fan into a diehard fan for life.”

“Drive All Night” from “The River” (1980)
“‘The River’ is a double album, and there are all kinds of different songs on it, therefore many to choose from. There are upbeat rockers like ‘Two Hearts,’ his biggest hit up until that point, ‘Hungry Heart’ (which he originally wrote for the Ramones, but then decided to keep for himself after realizing how good it was), as well as slow, emotionally heavy songs like ‘Stolen Car.’ The song I connect to most on the album is ‘Drive All Night.’ It’s an extremely slow soulful song about a lost love, and it runs over eight minutes long. ‘When I lost you honey sometimes I think I lost my guts too, and I wish God would send me a word, send me something I’m afraid to lose.’ There’s an incredible sax solo from Clarence Clemons in the middle, which leads to the end where Springsteen repeats ‘Through the wind, through the rain, through the snow, you’ve got my love, heart, and soul.’ By the time the song ends, you’ll already be in your car, driving through the night to whatever far off city the one who got away lives in.”

“Atlantic City” from “Nebraska” (1982)
“If I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me ‘I’m not really a Springsteen fan, but I love ‘Nebraska’!’ I’d be rich. For some reason it’s a go-to album for non-Springsteen fans. I think one of the reasons for that is that it doesn’t really sound like Springsteen. As incredible as ‘Nebraska’ is, this isn’t what Springsteen does. He’s a rock ‘n’ roller, and the E Street Band is a huge part of his heart and soul. That being said, this album is unarguably a masterpiece that gets to the heart of the dark side of the American struggle. ‘Atlantic City’ is my favorite song. The main character in the song is clearly in love, but is also clearly struggling in life financially, and ends up in a dangerous situation. It confronts the realities of survival, love, life, and death. It features some of Springsteen’s most poignant lyrics. ‘Down here it’s just winners and losers, and don’t get caught on the wrong side of that line,’ and my all-time favorite, ‘Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact, but maybe everything that dies someday comes back.’ None of us know what happens when we die, or when love dies. Maybe we do come back, and maybe we can love again. Who knows, but until then we’ve got this song, and it is desperate, heartbreaking, and beautiful.”

“Born in the U.S.A.” from “Born In The U.S.A.” (1984)
“‘Born In The U.S.A.’ was a massive success and turned Bruce Springsteen into an American icon. It also has to be the most misunderstood album of all time. The lyrics to the song ‘Born In The U.S.A.,’ which Springsteen shouts at the top of his lungs on the recording, couldn’t be more clearly about a Vietnam vet coming home from war and being rejected by the very society he risked his life for, yet somehow some people still think it’s some kind of jingoistic anthem. Even Ronald Reagan, in a 1984 campaign speech said ‘America’s future rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts; it rests in the message of hope in songs so many young Americans admire: New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen.’ Springsteen responded a few days later on stage saying ‘The President was mentioning my name the other day, and I kind of got to wondering what his favorite album must of been. I don’t think it was the ‘Nebraska’ album. I don’t think he’s been listening to this one.’ He then launched in to ‘Johnny 99.’ All politics aside, sometimes I think ‘Born In The U.S.A.’ gets a bad rap from some people for its glossy ’80s production, ’80s synth sound, and upbeat deceptively happy songs. If you listen to the songs though, they’re really not all that different from ‘Nebraska.’ The song ‘Born In The U.S.A.’ was even written for ‘Nebraska,’ originally recorded in those 1982 demos. The rest of the album is the same simple songwriting style, with very similar themes and messages, just presented in a very different way. ‘Born In The U.S.A’ is my favorite Bruce Springsteen album. It’s his most solid work. He broke everything down to the bare essentials and wrote the best songs of his career. Beyond that, it’s the end of the story he had been telling ever since his first album. His whole life he was running away from places, driving down the highway, through the ‘darkness on the edge of town.’ On this album, he’s older now. His friends are married and have kids. He’s been through all of that running, and he has realized that no matter where you run, drive, or hide, you’re still there. You can’t run away from yourself. You are who you are, and you have to live with that. On ‘Born In The U.S.A.’ he has ‘nowhere to run, nowhere to go,’ he just has to be a ‘cool rocking daddy in the U.S.A.’ In the end, he realizes that as long as you’ve got your friends, and you’ve got who and what you love, you’re going to be alright. Just hold on to the people and the things that are important to you, and never forget them.”

“Walk Like A Man” “Tunnel Of Love” (1987)
“‘Tunnel Of Love’ was the final album Springsteen recorded before disbanding the E Street Band for 10 years from 1989-1999. The shiny ’80s pop production on the album does a disservice to the songwriting, which is extremely personal, contemplative, and intimate. Springsteen got married to Julianne Phillips in 1985, and much of this album documents the dissolution of that marriage which eventually ended in 1989. It’s a tender, delicate, and heartbreaking album. Anyone who has ever been through a serious relationship and breakup will relate to ‘Tougher Than The Rest.’ We all know you come out with scars, but are wiser and stronger because of them. Springsteen reminds us that love is still out there waiting for us whenever we’re ready to receive it. ‘There’s another dance, honey, all you’ve got to do is say yes, and if you’re rough and ready for love, honey, I’m tougher than the rest.’ ‘Walk Like A Man’ is probably my favorite song on the album. It hits hard, as he reminisces about being a child with his mother teaching him about life, and wanting to make her, and in turn, his wife, proud. It’s a beautifully touching sentiment on an album full of beautifully written songs.”