Again the roundtable convenes, this time, for Bruce Springsteen's Magic. We've been waiting ... and waiting. Oh, how we've been waiting. Though I did avoid early leaks of the record, I couldn't wait for the CD release. The vinyl album came out a week early. Mmmmm, the smell of fresh 180 gram vinyl!
Someday, the three of us will get together over a pitcher of beer and toss these ideas around. For the time being, please join me, BC editor Josh Hathaway, and BC executive editor Lisa McKay as we break Magic open and maybe discover a little bit about ourselves in the process.
Well gee, wasn't the buildup fun? Okay, sort of. It did seem like a very long time between the original announcement and the eventual release. Heck, I had the thing a week early on vinyl and the wait still drove me to distraction. I was amazed that both of you had the willpower to ignore the leaks, "Radio Nowhere" excepted. Very impressive.
But on to the record. This is very interesting, because for the first time in a long time, I'm having flashbacks to Darkness On The Edge Of Town. The first listen gave me a general, somewhat hazy feeling that I'd just experienced something special. Repeat spins would obviously be necessary to fill in those gaps. On about the fifth pass, the shape of the record began to emerge. I started to remember song sequences and transitions, instrumental breaks, snippets of lyrics, themes, and moments of "oh!" Yeah, don't we all live for moments of "oh!"?
Sonically, Magic came into focus as a collection that mates the best parts of Darkness and The River. Guitars grind, glockenspiels chime, and pianos & keyboards accent the melodic lines. It's common knowledge that Bruce is a fan of many pop forms, and here it's gratifying to see him indulge. Songs like "Girls In Their Summer Clothes" and "I'll Work For Your Love" are a welcome additions to the Springsteen palette. We've all been wondering if the "real" E Street Band would ever return, and now we have our answer — Clarence's blustery horn seals it.
Thematically, Bruce plays a sly hand by mixing unlike ideas and sounds. "Livin' In The Future" is an unforgettably bouncy tune. The theme, however, is as serious as your life. The same can be said for "Girls In Their Summer Clothes," which sounds romantic but is more of a wistful look back. For me, it all works. Shocking words coming from the "not a lyrics guy," I know.