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Articles and Reviews: MUSIC

Magic by Bruce Springsteen (Columbia)


The Boss’s new record, marked by another reunion with the E Street Band – only his second studio album with the group since 1984's Born in the U.S.A. – has been hailed as his return to rock, after the introspectively literary Devils & Dust and the traditional heartlands folk of We Shall Overcome: The Pete Seeger Sessions. In truth, things are far from that simple.

While the balls out rock’n’roller opener ‘Radio Nowhere’ cruises along like the big band flip-side of Nebraska’s sparse acoustic ‘State Trooper’, its dial just as ‘jammed up with talk show stations’, it’s surprising that there aren’t more flat-out rockers on show. When coupled with Brendan O’Brien’s over-fussy, digital age production, this leads to a rather mannered set, not unlike that of the similarly O’Brien produced The Rising. But while this approach may have been appropriate for that cautious, 9/11 rumination, here it just holds things back, with the result that the songs are in danger of sounding like all those other ones you hear pumping out of Top 40 stations.

 

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While it is undoubtedly a sprightly band album, the overwhelming themes here are those of decay and corruption. The wistful ‘Girls in Their Summer Clothes’ is a great mid-life crisis anthem, while ‘Last To Die’ gives rein to Springsteen’s largely self-appointed role as spokesman for the ‘good’ Americans. Given the punchy slickness on display here, it’ll be interesting to see if this summer’s live shows provide a rawer, more immediate, beefed-up take on this material.


First published in Magill magazine, February/March 2008.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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