The River

Friday, October 12, 2007

"Magic" review II

or screw the production quibbles and the politics, this is fun

Five years ago, I declared that Bruce Springsteen was Officially Finished after his album The Rising, a celebration of 9/11 that was pretty bland, pretentious and terrible.

But three terrific albums later (Devils & Dust, The Seeger Sessions, and now Magic), the lesson, as always, is clear: I'm an idiot. If you haven't bought Magic yet, you should. On its own merits, it is an album more than worthy of Bruce Springsteen.

I knew Magic was officially a great album this weekend, when I involuntarily reached for the volume in the car during "Girls In Their Summer Clothes". And cranked it.

I'm not going to get into any comparisons, or say wild stuff like "This is his best album since The River!" But let's just say that I got so fired up about Magic this weekend that I did bust out The River and cranked THAT, just to make the comparison.

(Of course The River kicks Magic to the curb. Let's not get too crazy here.)

I think Springsteen knew deep down that The Rising was a stinker, and I give him all the credit in the world for bouncing back like he has. Springsteen brought out the hooks for this new album, and you can hear them on "You'll Be Comin' Down", "Livin' In The Future", and most notably "Girls In Their Summer Clothes".

Yes, the sound of Magic is extremely derivative of his past 70s glories, but why not? Deep down, Springsteen is a huge competitor. I remember watching some music awards show many years back, when Bruce blew away an earnest but overmatched Jacob Dylan off the stage, and I thought Bruce was having a little too much fun doing so. His whole attitude that night said: "Yeah, your dad is my idol, and your little band is doing well right now, but for the moment why don't you stand right over there and LEARN."

Fast forward to 2007, where every music critic has been falling over him/herself to proclaim how bands like The Arcade Fire and The Hold Steady have been channeling their inner Springsteen to create Rock That Matters. Think Springsteen was paying attention? I would bet money on it.

I think he went in the studio this year with that same attitude, one that said, "Oh, the Springsteen sound is hot, huh? Well then, welcome to my master class. I'll be your teacher for the next 12 tracks. Now sit down, take out your notebooks and #2 pencils, and begin taking notes. By the way, my name is The Boss."

I personally think the Arcade Fire sound more like John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band than Bruce Springsteen. With Magic, I think Springsteen set out to ensure it. So while many tracks on Magic sound like they could be cut from Darkness On The Edge of Town or Born To Run, they definitely do not sound like outtakes from said records.

I think this new album is more of a response to the indie kids than to anything going on in Iraq right now. He basically should have called this new album Springsteen 101. Recommended.

-- Michael A. Beyer, on

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