Bruce Springsteen – Magic
There’s only one event in music guaranteed to generate more buzz than a new album from Bruce Springsteen: A new album from Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band.
Why? The answer is right there in the title of The Boss’s 15th studio disc.
As spellbinding and brilliant as the 58-year-old rock icon is on his own, when he plays with The E Streeters, it’s magic. Call it a spark or chemisty or anything you like; whatever it is, it has always been an unmistakable, inimitable sound far greater than the sum of its parts. That’s what you get on Magic, their first collaboration since 2002’s stirring album The Rising (and perhaps their final album together, based on some reports).
But that’s not all you get. Along with the heartland-rock sonic touchstones and everyman lyrics that preach to Bruce’s congregation of fans, the dark 11-song album – recorded in Atlanta with Rising producer Brendan O’Brien – includes forays into ’60s-style orchestral rock.
And while it doesn’t equal Born to Run or Born in the U.S.A. – really, how many albums do? – Magic’s gritty intensity almost puts it on par with Darkness on the Edge of Town and The River.
Which is to say: Bruce and the E Streeters still have a few tricks up their sleeves.
Radio Nowhere 3:18
“I want a thousand guitars, I want pounding drums,” The Boss demands. And on this driving rocker, that’s what the band supplies – along with a howling sax solo, a jangling riff that echoes Tommy Tutone’s 867-5309/Jenny and a darkly yelpy vocal reminiscent of Warren Zevon. A killer single – assuming radio will play a song about how much it sucks.
You’ll be Coming Down 3:45
After Radio Nowhere, the downtempo gait of this karmic warning seems slight at first. After a few listens, the shimmery U2ish guitars, ’60s folk-pop overtones and seductive chorus hook you.
Livin’ in the Future 3:56
Between the bouncy swagger, twangy guitar licks, wailing sax and shimmering organ, this is a soulful celebration in the style of Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out and Hungry Heart – though lyrics about liberty sailing away add political overtones.
Your Own Worst Enemy 3:18
Bruce gets in touch with his inner Brian Wilson on this midtempo ballad, wrapping his dour melody and weary vocals in a lush blanket of sombre strings, kettle drums, percussion and bells.
Gypsy Biker 4:31
The band kicks back into high gear with a swelling, anthemic roots- rocker about a small-town hero coming home – in a coffin. The revving guitars and piercing solo are outstanding.
Girls in Their Summer Clothes 4:19
Another orchestrated pop ballad, with sweeping strings and a growling sax that follow Bruce’s heartbroken protagonist as he roams the streets looking for love – and getting passed by.
I’ll Work for Your Love 3:34
The tinkly piano at the start harkens back to Thunder Road – but the tune breaks into a bittersweet, Dylanesque folk-rocker laced with Biblical lyrics symbolizing the sanctity of love.
A woozy carnival organ, a sawdusty beat, a fluttery mandolin and a ghostly violin decorate this dreamy vignette in which innocent deception quickly gives way to monstrous trickery.
Last to Die 4:17
Another gritty, hard-hitting rocker accented with strings and fuelled by lyrics built upon John Kerry’s famous statement about the Vietnam War. One guess what this one is about.
Long Walk Home 4:34
With its lightly strummed guitar and gently melancholy vibe, this one opens like Streets of Philadelphia, but quickly moves into a roots- rock lament about finding your way back home.
Devil’s Arcade 5:05
The disc’s most overtly poltical cut is this tale of a soldier wounded in battle. The striking arrangement elegantly builds from mournful strings and guitar to a richly intense orchestration.
Bonus Track: Terry’s Song 4:11
Springsteen pays tender tribute to his longtime assistant Terry MacGovern, who died this summer at age 67. It’s the most nakedly personal song he’s written in years. And one of the most moving.