The River

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"Magic" review III

or, of course it's political, can't anyone read and interpret anymore?

After the great, cinematic road trips ("The Wild, the Innocent," "Born to Run," "Darkness," "The River"); the rock-star coming-of-age musings ("Born in the U.S.A.," "Tunnel of Love"); the folk-tinged roots explorations ("Nebraska," "Tom Joad," "Seeger Sessions"); the "um, that was ... interesting" side trips (I'm lookin' at you, "Better Days" and "Human Touch"); and the sober takes on the New Millennium ("The Rising," "Devils + Dust"), "Magic" is a logical progression for Springsteen. An amalgam of all the great riffs, sing-along choruses, and signature Boss features (glockenspiel, anyone?), the latest from Bruce also benefits from the emotional intensity and darkness his lyrics have explored in recent years. And of course, his E Street Band compatriots are here in full sonic force -- the engine that drives Springsteen's train of thought.

In case anyone missed it, this is a deeply political album. I'm dumbfounded by reviews that say it includes "one or two songs about the war in Iraq." EVERY song is in some way about the war in Iraq, or about the state of America today. I'm also amused by the predictable hue and cry that denouncing these things is somehow unpatriotic. (Seriously, does anyone even pay attention to that rot anymore?) Springsteen's love of country comes through loud and clear, along with his disgust about the way that country has been shamed by the people currently running it. "Magic" may, in fact, be the most patriotic album of his career.

My only complaint about it is Brendan O'Brien's production, which is every bit as muddy-sounding here as it was on "The Rising." Brendan, please back away from the compressor. I'm begging you.

But in every other way, this is as satisfying a Bruce Springsteen album as any he's put out -- and a perfect, pointed commentary about a nation in dire need of a little magic of its own.

-- Ceejay, on

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