For fans of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band heyday, the boss’s new album, The Rising, should turn out to be an American treasure. Springsteen and his band pound out enough powerhouse rock to make Reagan roll over in his deathbed. The folk-rock formula of “Lonesome Day” and the twangy “Mary’s Place” is a bit dated yet it somehow fits snugly into America’s current non-revisionist retro-rock state of mind. Traces of the more subdued Clinton-era Bruce (“Streets of Philadelphia” and “Secret Garden”), can be found in “Nothing Man” and the tender, string-filled “You’re Missing.” Springsteen tries out a few new tricks but never veers too far left; the politically-minded “Worlds Apart” begins with a world beat infusion of tablas and Middle Eastern chants but then explodes into a signature E Street jam replete with crunchy electric guitar solos. Juxtaposed with Springsteen’s somber lyrics, the arrangements seem robust, even cheerful. “Into the Fire,” one of many tracks which invoke 9/11, begins with a soppy intro (“The sky was falling and streaked with blood”) but then builds into a soaring climax (“May your strength give us strength/May your faith give us faith”). Some of the 9/11 imagery is too straightforward, if not just plain weak (“Empty sky, empty sky, I woke up this morning to the empty sky” he sings on “Empty Sky”), but Springsteen is the only one who can get away with earnest-to-goodness lines like “The fuse is burnin’/Come on, let me do you right.” The 9/11 tracks resound with purity and undeniable inspiration but Springsteen truly shines when he strays from the heady (the uplifting “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day” and the feel-good “Let’s Be Friends”). That said, The Rising is perhaps the first record to directly and fully reflect the state of post-9/11 America. It’s almost too fitting that it comes from the brawny boss of “Born In The U.S.A.”
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