Meanwhile, the sound of Magic is really, in the abstract, quite wonderful. Brendan O'Brien's production isn't exactly a Spectorian Wall of Sound, but it's a big, dense, imposing construct on its own terms. And you'll be pulling interesting instrumental and vocal moments out of the mix throughout, my own favorite being the church bells and wordless Beach Boys harmonies that sneak up at the end of "Your Own Worst Enemy" - and Bruce's singing right before that, which ranks with the prettiest he's ever done.
The rest of the songs are a fairly mixed bag stylistically. "You'll Be Comin' Down" is a stately bit of folk rock with one of his most appealing melodies, but lyrically it's addressed to a girl whose pretty face is going to hell sooner rather than later, and it's as bleak and depressing as anything that Richard Thompson has ever imagined. "Livin' in the Future" is a throwback to Springsteen's '60s R&B roots; it has a bit of a "Hungry Heart" party groove, but the story it tells might be about some desperate, not-so-distant time when the singer's "ship Liberty sailed away on a bloody red horizon."
But the killer - or at least, the song I keep coming back to - is "Girls in Their Summer Clothes," a Brill Building love song of the kind that Bruce used to toss off effortlessly, and an absolute stunner. It could be the 40-years-in-the-making sequel to Manfred Mann's "Pretty Flamingo" (which Bruce used to cover live), with the singer now older, wiser, but still optimistic against the odds. Which means that the lines "Down here on magic street / Love's a fool's dance / And I ain't got much sense, but I still got my feet" may be simultaneously the silliest and most profound lyrics that Bruce Springsteen has ever written.
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