Bruce Springsteen Magic

[Sony; 2007]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll, Dad’s favorite weekend whistler
Others: Neil Young, Elvis Costello, Son Volt

There is a multitude of the New Jersey population who view Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi equally. As a citizen of the state, I cringe at the existence, and worse yet, the behavior of this jostling, fist-pumping, prideful bunch. Bruce Springsteen, believe it or not, functions within an artistic integrity that extends beyond state borders. There are also music listeners who dismiss Springsteen’s body of work, all except for Nebraska, of course (because that one’s lo-fi and hip to listen to or at least own). All this considered, I’m not so pompous to proclaim Springsteen’s entire catalog precious. The man has had many missteps, and quite frankly, I feel he’s due for another one.

Coming off a string of formidable releases (2002’s The Rising was both comforting and cheeky; 2005’s Devils & Dust was worthwhile enough for the sodomy and finger-licking goodness of “Reno” alone; 2006’s We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions was what American musicians need always stay near to), I was poised for a Springsteen clunker, an album only the beckoners of BRUUUUCE! would hail as heaven in a Hackensack-made hand basket. Another clue this album would clink down the cellar sink was its title: Magic. Magic? Really? You sure that isn’t some tentative inside-joke album title? Well, the album title — like a book cover — is not, and should not, be the basis for judgment.

Magic is a sturdy, sure-footed Bruce Springsteen album. Gratefully, it isn’t all anthems, with some innocent antics to balance the set. (One still can’t escape Springsteen’s tendency towards la la la’s and na na na’s, though.) Springsteen also shows that, even in a post-9/11 world, you don’t have to be politically charged, that sometimes being charged through an unsafe outlet in a dingy garage is enough. Aside from a brief mention of waking up on an election day with ominous skies overhead, Magic is for the most part apolitical. We all need our breathers from Washington.

As we take a breath, we can better appreciate the excellent lyrics Springsteen still crafts. His images remain firm, ranging from raunchy to resplendent. If evidence is required: “Remember the morning we dug up your gun/ The worms in the barrel, the hangin’ sun.” And: “I’ll watch the bones in your back like the Stations of the Cross.” Then there are the mentions of snorting cocaine, insertions, and cinnamon skies turning candy-apple green. The lyrics are often blindsided and buried away by the always-efficient E Street Band. From sax solos to Weinberg’s walloping to those tinkling piano keys, they accomplish exactly what’s expected of them.

So, here’s to my girlfriend, a gal who has the outline of New Jersey tattooed on the side of her torso, yet despises the man and imitates his growl whenever 104.3 or 90.7 FM plays him. Here’s to the potbellies, permanents, and guidos in tank tops who pack his performances at the Meadowlands. Here’s to the Bon Jovi billboard on Route 3 prior to the Lincoln Tunnel helix. Freehold’s finest, ladies and gentleman, Bruce Springsteen, complete with rumored hair plugs.

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