Bruce Springsteen, Magic

Let's be honest: The critical hosannas hailing Magic as Bruce Springsteen's "Return to Rock" are a bit much; it's only been five years since The Rising. Magic is a solid, often transcendent, effort closer in quality to Darkness on the Edge of Town than Lucky Town, roughly in the middle of the Boss's canon. Several cracking rockers offer caustic, powerful commentary on the modern airwaves ("Radio Nowhere"), the Iraq war ("Last to Die") and vacuous celebrities ("You'll Be Comin' Down"). Lyrically, Springsteen's studio mirror reflects what he really sees: a 58-year-old man looking more backward than forward. But there's strength and dignity in the turning of the calendar, as he takes stock without being maudlin in the elegiac "Your Own Worst Enemy." "Girls in Their Summer Clothes" successfully blends Phil Spector's Wall of Sound with vibrant neighborhood-life lyrics and middle-aged wistfulness. Some numbers ("Gypsy Biker," "Long Walk Home") do meander with overstuffed imagery or fall flat musically. Closing hidden track "Terry's Song," a memorial for Springsteen's recently deceased friend/associate Terry Magovern, may have some trite lyrics, but the Jersey Boy sings with such genuine passion that he conjures some real musical — and emotional — magic.


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