by Vincent Lee
At Bruce Springsteen's peak with the E Street Band, he wove complex and wonderful stories on top of touching melodies, aided by guitar and saxophone solos. In these so-called “twilight years” Springsteen and the E Street Band have maintained the musicianship, but gotten away from the stunning story telling that put them over the top. Although The Rising and Magic are both solid albums, they greatly lack in comparison to other work. A glimpse of the former lyrical genius is seen only briefly on his latest Working on a Dream. Instead, Working on a Dream is rather comparable to Magic, a very catchy and solid album, but rather lackluster by the high standards the Boss set for himself.
The opening track, “Outlaw Pete,” an 8-minute tale of a criminal on top of stunning musicianship, is easily the best song on the album. Unfortunately, the rest consists of mostly average songs.
“Queen of the Supermarket,” an odd romantic tale of an infatuation with a lady working at the supermarket, is the only other song with a story. “The Wrestler,” which feels oddly out of place on this album, seems like a companion song to Devil and Dust's “The Hitter” and is written with a similar tone. The rest is mostly a letdown or feels in many ways like Magic Part Two. This is not exactly a coincidence because several songs were written while Springsteen and the E street band were touring this past year to support the Magic album.
Initially, Working on a Dream seems like a rather large disappointment. Though true in several ways, Springsteen shows a significant amount of energy on this record. Despite composing several songs with seemingly never ending choruses, he seems refreshed, which is good news should another tour be coming. Beyond his work in the studio, Springsteen has always been at his absolute best in concert. There is a strong possibility many of these lackluster studio songs could become much more on stage.
However, long-time Springsteen fans will find little to rejoice about with Working on a Dream. In many ways it feels like a Magic continuation, that is weaker than its predecessor. “Outlaw Pete” and “The Wrestler” are both highlights, but are not enough to make the album special. Although it is a pleasant record, nothing about it is particularly special or sets it apart, something Springsteen has done particularly well on his releases throughout his musical career. In many ways, it's a letdown.
(The photo of Bruce Springsteen is from 2005 by Sister72 of Monmouth County, NJ via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license. Springsteen & The E Street Band will perform their next live set this week at halftime of Super Bowl XLIII. To see the video for "Life Itself" from Springsteen's Working on a Dream, please check below.)
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
Working on a Dream
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by Vincent Lee