On “Radio Nowhere” Springsteen searches for a recognizable pulse in a culture lacking soul. He also warns a beautiful woman that time spent on top of the world is fleeting (“You’ll Be Coming Down”). An aging man borrows Catholic imagery to describe his commitment to a woman through hard times (“I’ll Work for Your Love”). The nostalgic “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” paints a picture of simple suburban life as the singer puts a breakup in perspective. A similar yearning for Americana appears on “Long Walk Home,” which believes in small-town integrity. “Terry’s Song” is a heartfelt tribute to long-time pal Terry Magovern, who passed away in July. Intelligent anti-war songs long for an end to the fighting and count the cost of conflict (“Livin’ in the Future,” “Magic,” “Last to Die,” “Your Own Worst Enemy,” “Gypsy Biker,” “Devil’s Arcade”), however …
The war in Iraq is positioned as an unmitigated disaster, a bias that fails to recognize any positive results from the sacrifices troops have made there. Cynical lines such as “Trust none of what you hear and less of what you see” and “The speculators made their money on the blood you shed” imply malevolent intent. Isolated lyrics also speak of drunkenness, gambling and getting stoned.
Magic’s melancholy poetry values life, but its grim protest of war and criticism of our leaders betrays a political bias that parents may want to discuss with teens, thus providing more balance than Springsteen does.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews.