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Review

Springsteen’s latest album full of tricks, ‘Magic’

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October 11, 2007

On Magic’s opening song, “Radio Nowhere,” Bruce Springsteen cries out: “I want a thousand guitars…I want pounding drums…I want a million different voices speaking in tongues.” At first listen, the song sounds like a simple question about the state of rock music and its decline since the late 1990s. But there’s a sense of loss within it that goes beyond the aesthetic of simple musical tastes. There’s defeat, frustration and ultimately feelings of uprising beyond that which we all have become accustomed to.

In 2002, Springsteen crafted The Rising, an album in which he bled his patriotism, his dedication, and the overall love he has for this country. But he chose the alternate route, which he asked the nation not to seek the easy path of vengeance, but rise above hatred.

Later in 2004, he lost the Vote for Change campaign, which fell on millions of deaf ears. Fast forward to 2007 and it’s easy to understand him when he repeatedly sings, “I just want to hear some rhythm…I just want to feel some rhythm…I just want to feel your rhythm.”

There’s no mention of Iraq, corrupt politicians or prophetic words of wisdom. No, Magic is Springsteen’s observation concerning the current state of “a bloody red horizon.”

In the spaghetti western-like “Gypsy Biker,” complete with harmonica and quick, jarring acoustic guitars, he intends to make us shiver in our warm beds as he sings, “The favored march up over the hill…In some fools parade…Shoutin’ victory for the righteous…But there ain’t much here but graves.” Or take “Last to Die,” where he croons over violin strings, “Whose blood will spill, whose heart will break…Who’ll be the last to die for a mistake.”

In a reminiscent turn, Springsteen looks back on his youth-places where “The fluorescent lights flick over Pop’s Grill” and “the streetlights shine on Blessing Avenue.” (“Girls In Their Summer Clothes”). He pleads, “I’ll work for your love…What others may want for free…I’ll work for your love” to a girl named Teresa in the more upbeat “I’ll Work for Your Love.”

And on the inspiring “Long Walk Home,” Springsteen remembers his father’s words: “Son, we’re lucky in this town…It’s a beautiful place to be born … You know that flag flying over the courthouse…Means certain things are set in stone…Who we are, what we’ll do…And what we won’t.”

These songs foster a brighter past that once existed, but that doesn’t mean he believes we can’t escape and change what has become of the present. “I got shackles on my wrists,” Springsteen smugly tells in the title track, “Soon I’ll slip ‘em and be gone…Chain me in a box in the river…And I’ll rise singin’ this song.”

Hope for the future is even more evident in “Devil’s Arcade,” where he sings, “The glorious kingdom of the sun on your face…Rising from a long night as dark as the grave.”  Closing the album is an untitled, un-credited acoustic tribute to Springsteen’s friend and 23-year partner, Terry Magovern, who is praised, “When they built you brother, they broke the mold.”  In his own subtle way, he is advising us to break it as well.

Matthew Loosbrock is a student at UW-River Falls.