Lots of people are talking more intelligently about Bruce Springsteen’s Magic than I could (for example, here and here). I’ll say two things, both of which are touched upon in the reviews I’ve linked:
First, I can’t fathom why people are still surprised or offended when Springsteen does songs that can be taken as political statements. Perhaps it springs from the determinedly apolitical stance taken by most contemporary musicians. But as I’ve noted before, Springsteen’s music has always been political. Not only that, it’s often been deeply patriotic, in a lower-case-p way—in its romantic conception of the way America ought to be for average folk living their lives day to day, and in its belief that no matter how bad times get, the deep-down character of Americans is reason to maintain hope. The difference in recent years is that the implications of international geopolitics have trickled down into our day-to-day lives like nothing since Vietnam, so Springsteen can’t avoid dealing with it any more than we can avoid breathing. Exhibit A: “Last to Die.”
Second, there’s a lot of big music on this record—“Long Walk Home,” with its soaring guitar and sax, is the greatest fist-in-the-air anthem Springsteen has made since “Hungry Heart.” (Good on ya, Miami Steve and the Big Man.) He’s always channeled 60s pop in one way or another; likewise, there’s more of that on this album than on any record he’s made since the 70s: “Livin’ in the Future,” “Gypsy Biker,” “Girls in Their Summer Clothes.” I was weaned on old-school Springsteen—Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town, and The River—thus Magic is the album I’ve been waiting a long time for him to make.
Recommended Reading and Listening: Lucinda Williams—about whom I should do an extended post because I thoroughly dig her—got political at a festival in California this month, suggesting among other things that somebody should put some LSD in Bush’s coffee. (Of course, he’s done a lot of damage under the impression that God talks to him; imagine what he might do if he thought he’d seen God.) Michael at Ickmusic caught Genesis the other night at Giants Stadium in New Jersey and explains why it was actually a good thing to be in the nosebleed section. And finally, Jeff at AM, Then FM, awakens some memories of Wisconsin rock bands of the 70s, including the fondly remembered Clicker.