CD: Bruce Springsteen, Magic

(Columbia)

After the rustic jollification of the Seeger Sessions, Springsteen goes back to his day job. And back, too, to the edge of town, where the Jersey Devil and the weary remnants of his old gang light up the night with a biker's funeral pyre in the parking lot of an abandoned diner. Or something like that. Five years after their last studio recording, the E Street Band tackle a dozen new songs that range from the mundane to the almost exceptional, the majority characterised by a sense of unease and displacement.

Producer Brendan O'Brien expands the band's basic sound, applying a contemporary gloss that may not always be to the music's advantage, since it permits only occasional unobstructed glimpses of the individual musicians. Springsteen's songwriting continues to suffer from a difficulty in locating a decent tune, as well as from a lack of freshness in the subject matter, but there is plenty to enjoy in the nasty guitar riff of Radio Nowhere, the Jungeland echoes of Gypsy Biker, the Tom Joad-like title song, the nightmarish visions and hypnotic crescendo of the beautifully textured Devil's Arcade and the hidden postscript, Terry's Song, a bittersweet acoustic elegy for a recently deceased friend.

Contributor

Richard Williams

The GuardianTramp

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