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.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero