STILL, MANY ARE BEWITCHED BY SPRINGSTEEN'S "DEVILS AND DUST" AS THE BOSS SHOWS HE'S BORN TO DO A LOT MORE THAN RUN IN THE U.S.A.
Sorry, I couldn't take off work to scoot down to Tower Records to get my copy of "Devils and Dust" this morning. Not worth the schlep when you can get it four bucks cheaper online. No offense, Boss. He still challenges, delights and enraptures me like no other musician. It's just that I can get by for a couple of days on downloads of the title cut and tonight's VH1 Storytellers meditation on his 13th album.
For the critics who have gotten the full listen, there is a mix of hosannas and ho-hum. Some genuinely love the brooding tracks, others suspect they've heard this before and done better, no less.
Sean Daly in The Washington Post encapsulates the conflicts felt by many a Springsteen fanatic. They're happiest when he's a rockin', but then there are those slow, quiet songs. Fear not.
"[T]he blue-collar bard has managed to make an album that is both personal and accessible, good news for fans who feel guilty that "Tom Joad" was listened to once and never again."
But Jim Farber in the New York Daily News is among those who find those ghosts still linger, which can make "Devils and Dust" an endurance test more than a musical monument.
Unfortunately, "Devils & Dust," like "Tom Joad," mainly finds Springsteen in a murmuring rut. While other players appear on the CD, the focus remains on Springsteen's rickety guitar and broken vocals. Both seem so weighed down by their dire subject matter, they're often squashed.
Jeepers. I guess that mean no trips down Thunder Road in a Pink Cadillac for us.
The AP's David Bauder is more blunt. He says the album is just plain "boring" and a blip at best in the Springsteen canon that can be easily forgotten.
Jim DeRogatis of the Chicago Sun-Times noted it's easy to see how these meditations can be akin to taking foul-tasting medicine for some fans. But he found the album "pleasantly inviting," even though "songs give us the bare bones Boss croaking like a guy from Jersey imitating a guy from Oklahoma over a sad and naked acoustic ."
In Detroit, where Springsteen kicked off his latest tour, the Free Press' Brian McCollum noted the album title may have helped inspire a dose of old-time religion in Springsteen.
[I]it's been a spirituality of the opaque sort: the perpetual hunt for redemption after the fall, or for catharsis amid the muck. Here he gets direct, calling straight out to God..."
In what was more of a homily than a review, Michael Riley in The Asbury Park Press -- Springsteen's hometown paper -- took the album's spiritual themes maybe even further than the Boss himself intended. Which may not be much of a reach for Riley, given that he's also an ordained Baptist minister.
"The broken souls in "Devils & Dust" pray hard and often, even if they don't realize it, even if they give voice to those prayers in wishes and vows. "
Amen to that, I think.
Dan Aquilante of the New York Post liked the album, sprituality and all, but seem disappointed that Springsteen, a loud John Kerry supporter, has made an essentially non-political statement with "Devils and Dust."
"Even the title track, inspired by the invasion of Iraq, isn't political, it's personal. The songs opens with Springsteen plaintively singing, "I got my finger on the trigger, but I don't know who to trust ... I feel a dirty wind blowing devils and dust."
Which obviously leaves his Democrat-chewing bosses at the Murdoch-owned Post crestfallen.