The Boss is back with the E Street band and a pocket full of ROCK. Awesome...
Chris Jones 2007
Bruce Springsteen’s muse like his hero Bob Dylan’s, has been lived in, knocked around and cared about for so long now that it’s reached a kind of Platonic plateau where a song that on the surface is riddled with cliché transcends its subject matter to become resonant on a deeper universal level; It's as though his Americana is a legendary land we all can share in. And like Dylan’s Modern Times, Magic makes the difficult trick of sounding simplistic sound easy – if you see what I mean.
From the opening lament for the death of rock’s means of communication, “Radio Nowhere”, to the closing tale of criminal intent, “Devil’s Arcade”, this is a truly prime slice of the Boss. Here he avoids the more political edge that he’s been forced to adopt by events of late and returns to smalltown heartache, outlaw chic, crises of faith and desperate times sent to visit the ordinary folk that inhabit his songs. When it comes to shaken faith he uses Christian imagery to ward off despair like the photo of his Catholic amulets that graces the inner sleeve. In “I’ll Work For Your Love” he even compares the hard work of seduction to Christ’s procession to Calvary.
Age is naturally an issue, especially with the E Street band looking like a bunch of members of an over-50s bike club (though Nils Lofgren’s guitar solo on “Gypsy Biker” betrays no sign of arthritis). Again, with scary concision he writes about coming to terms with lost youth in “Girls In Their Summer Clothes”.
He’s returned to the classic sound of the E Street Band. It’s a full-throated blast of rock ‘n’ roll that only suffers in its hugeness, with Brendan O’Brien’s production sometimes threatening to overpower Springsteen’s vocals. But the band sound ridiculously pumped up. “Living In The Future” could have come off The River or Darkness On The Edge Of Town. And that’s not to say that it’s a weary re-tread; it means it’s an instant Boss Classic: all parping horns, chiming keyboards and killer impassioned chorus. And it contains one of his classic couplets: ‘Just about sundown you come walkin’ through town, your boot heels clickin’ like the barrel of a pistol spinnin’ ‘round’.
This late in the day with so much variety and so many detours behind him it could be that Magic will merely be lapped up by the faithful and ignored by all the Boss agnostics. This is a crying shame because it really is a crowning achievement to his career thus far. It is, in a word, magic.