' Cinema Romantico: "Magic" Is, Well, Obviously

Thursday, October 04, 2007

"Magic" Is, Well, Obviously

So apparently it's become Bruce Springsteen Week here at Cinema Romantico and you know what? You should have seen it coming. How am I expected to get out to the movies when the new album demands at the bare minimum 57 listens the first week? I mean, a new Bruce album is like Cosmo Kramer's fabled Mackinaw Peaches. Except that unlike the Mackinaw Peaches - which are from Oregon and only ripe 2 weeks a year - a new Bruce + The E Street Band album is even more rare. Therefore you're going to have to put up with the reaction to "Magic" from one totally partial, completely biased fan.

In discussing it I would like to avoid any of the "Magic" is his best album since (insert an album of your choice here) hyperbole that always crops up in these situations. What I want to say is that in my first run-through of it I had an experience I've never had with any first-listen of any song, let alone any Bruce song. As I played "Long Walk Home" that initial time I had to pause it midway through for fear I would have a seizure. Literally. I physically and mentally couldn't go any further into it at that point or I would have wound up back at the hospital.

It starts quietly, Bruce singing the first verse and strumming away on an acoustic guitar, but doing it in that way that brings to your mind a film that starts with a whisper but is whispering with a panoramic backdrop and so you know everything to follow will be epic. Then the second verse comes and the whole band kicks in and now we've got that epicness. The Roy Bittan piano sounding the way the Roy Bittan piano is supposed to sound. Little Stevie providing backing vocals in that passionate, out-of-tune way of his. And then you get the Bruce guitar solo which sounds the way the Bruce guitar solo is supposed to sound - short, stinging, no wasted notes. And as I'm listening to the guitar solo, jumping around my room in utter glee, I'm thinking, There's gotta' be a Clarence solo next. Right? And then there was a Clarence solo. And then I thought, I'm going to faint. And so I had to pause it. I had to. It was just too, too much musical goodness. I came back about 10 minutes later and played it in its entirety. It harkens back to classic Springsteen but it's not merely a retread, or a parody. It lives in the here and now. It takes his classic elements but updates them. The lyrics talk about the current state of our nation without specifically saying so. This is the song we Bruce enthusiasts have been waiting to hear for years. An unequivocal masterpiece.

Earlier on the album there is a tune entitled "Girls in Their Summer Clothes" which from the title would indicate Bruce is returning to the, shall we say, beachfront carnival feel of his earlier work. And he does, to some degree, but what he also does here is return to the so-brilliant-all-I-can-do-is-bow-down songwriting which I have been so desperately craving.

Our narrator's "down on Blessing Avenue" (which is a street that could only exist in a Springsteen song) where the "girl in their summer clothes pass (him) by". That's the key, see? They're passing him by. He advises us that "things have been a little tight but I know they're gonna' turn my way?" Do they?

Well, he sees a "beautiful" woman and wonders if "maybe you just saved my life - in a glance". But rather than actually taking a chance on this woman who's just given him this life-saving glance he goes home and writes a song about it.

And for the first time in a long time I get to write the words I at one point could write about almost every Bruce song - I listen to it and I see myself looking back at me.

His best album since....who the hell cares? Bruce is back. That's all we need know.

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