Sunday, September 30, 2007

Bruce Springsteen is as Old as Your Dad, But Like 10 Times Cooler

It's pretty easy to dismiss an aging rock star. Rock music is primarily the dominion of young musicians whose creativity is born out of rebellion or a sense of urgency (or sometimes both), two things which are hard to sell when you are in your mid-50's and have more money than you ever dreamed. Which is precisely why bands like The Eagles, Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones look so goofy as they trot out for tour after contrived tour of the same greatest hits. These artists have all the fame and money they could ever want, yet they keep profiting off a nostalgia for a time when the creative well wasn't dry. I wish they would just retire and leave the spotlight to the few remaining peers who still have something left in the tank.

After listening to Magic, the latest album from 58 year old Bruce Springsteen, I think it is safe to say that, while he is in the same age group as those aforementioned 'dinosaurs', he still has plenty of creative juice left. On his 14th studio album The Boss reconnects with The E Street Band for the first time since 2002's The Rising, and the results are very satisfying. While The Rising was an album full of big themes (9/11 and its emotional aftermath) and grandiose rock anthems, Magic doesn't aim for such lofty ambition, instead what it does (quite wonderfully, I might add) is something much simpler; recapture a rhythm and blues sound that is the backbone of American Rock music, but rarely heard in today's mainstream Rock artists.

There are so many gems that utilize the strengths of the E Street Band, but none of them sound forced or derivative of a time when their talents were sharper because you can hardly tells these dudes are all middle aged. Of course, Clarence Clemons is given ample time to shine on the saxophone ("You'll be Comin' Down", "Livin' in the Future") and Max Weinberg proves he can keep a driving backbeat with the best of them ("Last to Die", "Radio Nowhere). But the glue that keeps everything together is still The Boss and on several occasions he employs many of his signature talents to create music that is vintage Bruce. There's the working class hero ("Long Walk Home"), the conflicted American ("Last to Die) and the eternal optimist ("Livin' in the Future"), all of which are beautifully supported by the wall of sound that is The E Street Band.

While Magic may not be as dark and foreboding as Devils and Dust, or as introspective as The Seeger Sessions, it is a powerful album of fairly straightforward Rock songs at a time when it seems as though many (including those who helped define that genre) have forgotten how to make that kind of music anymore. Thank God there's an old timer like Bruce who's around to show the rest of us how it's done.

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