Advance word on this album centered on its anti-war lyrics, but its true focus is on the return of the E Street Band and Springsteen’s classic signature sound.
“In the Future” does discuss events in America the past few years, set to a rollicking Jersey sound that calls to mind “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out.” “Magic” is a folk tale that superficially discusses sleight-of-hand, but more deeply lets the listener know that Bruce is referring to the Bush administration, not Houdini. “Gypsy Biker” is an E-Street stomper about a friend returning from war – in a casket.
So, yes, the war is on Springsteen’s mind. But his thoughts and emotions here are not in-your-face. Some might cry “cop-out,” it’s really just a case of a songwriter who truly knows his craft. And those songs are just the tip of the iceberg. “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” is a piece of Spector-like rock, “I’ll Work For Your Love” is full of Catholic imagery – perfect E-Street music with a hook big enough to drive a truck through.
Guitar sounds drive all of these songs, which isn’t surprising from a band with three guitar players (Springsteen, Steve Van Zandt, and Nils Lofgren). Whether it’s jangly rhythms, driving solos, or layered acoustics, they’re everywhere. Producer Brendan O’Brien captures the band’s sound perfectly, and when mixed with great lyrics and hooks, it’s veritable rock and roll perfection.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Feb ’08 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.