Magic is being hyped as Springsteen's rocking return to his classic period, and that's understandable: The album contains lotsa familiar musical totems, not to mention lyrics about driving a highway until the road turns black, and a diner on the edge of town (bet it's dark there). But while Boss buffs will scarf down tunes such as "Livin' in the Future" like Jersey Shore comfort food, the more interesting cuts tweak the formula in unexpectedly effective ways. The disc opens disappointingly with "Radio Nowhere," built upon tedious why-isn't-my-type-of-music-on-the-airwaves-anymore words. But the recording opens up from there, with strings playing a major role. "Your Own Worst Enemy" and "Girls in Their Summer Clothes" incorporate sweeping orchestration and broad melodies inspired by Pet Sounds mini-symphonies, and Soozie Tyrell's violin (fused to a synth-keyboard line) compensates beautifully for the lyrical heaviness of "Last to Die." At a time when many of his contemporaries are phoning it in, Springsteen's working hard to make music that matters, and his efforts have paid off. It's no trick. It's Magic.
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