Bruce Springsteen, set to release his first studio album with the E-Street Band since 2002’s Grammy Award winning multi-platinum “The Rising,” has announced his return to the rock world after two years of detours off E-Street. “Magic” drops Oct. 2 and is perhaps Springsteen’s best all around record since the ’70s.
From the opening chords of its hit single “Radio Nowhere,” to the final melodies on the atmospheric track “Devils Arcade,” “Magic” is filled with rocking melodies, roaring guitars and pounding drums.
On first listen “Magic” is light on its feet and nothing more than a collection of songs meant to be blaring from your car stereo while speeding down the highway.
But as is the case in all things Springsteen, this album has much more to offer. Springsteen has managed to weave deeper political meaning into the Dylan-esque symbolism of his lyrics.
The album opens with “Radio Nowhere,” which is ironically the most radio friendly song on a release loaded with potential hit singles.
The narrator is wandering through “The last great American night” searching for some rhythm. Asking for “A thousand guitars” and “pounding drums,” the protagonist gets just that. It can be interpreted that this is The Boss’ lament on the state of today’s music industry and the eternal search for rock and roll on airwaves polluted with the mindless drivel of pop music. But as is the case in many of Springsteen’s songs over the years, it can also reveal a much more personal struggle, such as a person seeking connection in another, or in society.
Regardless of your interpretation, expect this track to get heavy airplay on radio everywhere in the coming weeks and months.
Unlike recent projects such as 2006’s “The Seeger Sessions,” which saw Springsteen record and re-work traditional American Folk songs, and 2005’s somber reflective solo effort, “Devils and Dust,” “Magic” features the rocking guitars and drums of The E-Street Band. Though, much like his most recent work, politics move front and center on many of the album’s 12 tracks.
Take the title track for example, “Magic” uses the eerie sound, and imagery of a magician’s tricks as a guise to deliver a dark political message about the way the media has portrayed the Iraq war. The trickery ranging from making a quarter disappear, the rabbit in his hat, and most troubling, the fact that he has “got a shiny saw blade, all I need’s a volunteer” and intends to “cut you in half while you’re smiling ear to ear and the freedom that you sought drifting like a ghost amongst the trees” and prophetically states that “This is what will be.”
If that were not enough, perhaps the album’s most rocking song “Last to Die” wonders “whose blood will spill, whose heart will break, he’ll be the last to die for a mistake.” The tune grabs you and pulls you in with a guitar riff and drums not heard since REM’s heyday.
The antagonist is clearly President George W. Bush, and that mistake, the blunder in question is the Iraq war. Clearly, Last to Die is the anthem that “Born In The USA” was always meant to be.
Springsteen has been no stranger to politics in recent years. In 2004, The Boss spearheaded the Vote for Change tour, in support of Presidential Candidate John Kerry. Springsteen’s “No Surrender” also became the senator’s official campaign song.
Politics aside though, “Magic” is what it is, a heavy guitar driven rock album, done by some of the best in the business, Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band. This just might be the best studio album produced by an artist renowned as one of the greatest live acts in the history of rock and roll.
Clarence Clemons’ booming sax is prevalent on several tracks, including “Livin’ In The Future” which is a throwback to the band’s Glory Days. “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” provides picturesque imagery of life in small town New Jersey. It just might be Springsteen’s best pop song, and that’s saying something.
And, take my word for it you will not be able to get “Your Own Worst Enemy” out of your head for days.
In an industry mired in confusion and lack of direction, “Magic” just might be the record to salvage hope amongst reeling executives from major record companies. And should we really be surprised that it is Springsteen who offered up this masterpiece?
Springsteen and the boys will hit the road beginning Tuesday Oct. 2 in Hartford and embark on a three month arena world tour, before possibly hitting European and American Stadiums in the spring and summer of 2008.
The Magic Tour makes a two night stand at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia on Oct. 5 and 6, and swings by New Jersey’s Continental Airlines Arena on Oct. 9 and 10.
Matt Lombardo is the Sports Editor for The Quad. He is a third-year student at West Chester University majoring in Communication Studies with a minor in Journalism. He can be reached at ML606516@wcupa.edu.