Monday, October 01, 2007

After the Rising

For those who care, my review of Bruce Springsteen's Magic has just gone live at the website of The Magazine Formerly Known As Stereo Review.

A long time ago — May of 1968, to be precise — first-generation rock critic Jon Landau reviewed Bob Dylan's John Wesley Harding in Crawdaddy (which, by the way, has recently been revived — online), and he summed it up with this particularly felicitous and insightful phrase: "Dylan has felt the War."

It is, to say the least, a tad ironic that lo these many years later, a similar phrase could be tagged to Bruce Springsteen's Magic — and not just because Landau has been Springsteen's manager for longer than some people who will buy this album have been alive. But yes, the specter of Iraq does haunt some of the songs here — and not just the explicitly antiwar "Last to Die," a fairly heartbreaking piece of work, it should be noted, albeit more in resignation than in anger...

You can read the rest of it here.


Anonymous said...


Great review. Yep, that soaring vocal at the end of "Your Own Worst Enemy" is goosebumps territory. I keep rooting for him to hit even higher notes on the second line.

And you're spot on referencing the Landau review.

Great website, too. I'm one of many who spent their money and filled their record collections based on your reviews in Stereo Review. Great to find you after all these years.



steve simels said...

Mark --

Thanks for the kind words and I'm delighted you found the place.

And by the way I know what you mean about the second line. I had exactly the same reaction -- go for it, Bruce!!!

dave™© said...

The most extended version of Landau's quote comes from Google Books' reproduction of Griel Marcus' "The Old Weird America":

"Dylan manifests a profound awareness of the war and how it is affecting all of us. This doesn't mean that I think any of the particular songs are about the war or that any of the songs are protests over it. All I mean to say is that Dylan has felt the war, that there is an awareness of it contained within the album as a whole..."

steve simels said...

I actually did a Google search for the quote and couldn't find it.

What a relief that my memory was accurate for a change...

TMink said...

Another great review, you got da skills!

I am curious, as an audiophile wannabe myself, did the technolust from the mag wear off on you?

What is your system like?

If you don't mind my asking.


Anonymous said...


A wonderful review. During his 70s heyday I was more or less indifferent to Springsteen (yes, I can be quite the idiot) but life with Mrs. Gummo has helped correct that.

I started hearing Radio Nowhere a few weeks ago and it impressed me immediately -- there was an urgency to it, a need to connect with others, that was inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time. Everything else I've heard since has only reinforced that feeling.

And it's kinda weird that you referenced Bruce's 1970s cover of Pretty Flamingo -- I recently downloaded a partial 1975 Bruce show and Pretty Flamingo is far and away one of the highlights. He pours his whole heart into that otherwise silly song!

steve simels said...

Trey --

My surround system is in storage at the moment, alas.

I do all my listening at home on my computer with ipod earbuds.

Sad really.

Anonymous said...

No offense, Steve, but as pithy as it sounds, I think Landau was clearly speaking out of his butt when he projected his own feelings about the Vietnam War onto Dylan.

Unlike Springsteen, who has made his sentiments about Bush and this unholy war crystal clear, Dylan NEVER spoke out directly against the war--and, in fact, in a 1965 or 1966 interview, even kinda, sorta intimated that he supported it (although it's been argued that he did it to piss off the interviewer).

Moreover, as quoted above, Landau admitted "this doesn't mean that I think any of the particular songs are about the war or that any of the songs are protests over it." And yet he claims the album is proof that Dylan "felt" the war. Well, yeah...I guess in the sense that the war touched all Americans at that time. But anything other than that was pure conjecture on his part.

Again, I don't mean to imply that it's a similar situation with regard to Magic. I think one can make a convincing argument for the influence of the invasion of Iraq on Springsteen's artistry in general, and many of the songs here, in particular.

steve simels said...

Re: the Landau thing --

I think if you listen to John Wesley Hardin, there is a certain haunted vibe to it that is, at least in an incremental way, that's different from anything he had done before. Whether Vietnam specifically or merely what was going on in Dylan's day to day life or imagination generally explains it, who can say. But I think back in the day, Landau's remark made a great deal of sense, and I think lots of people heard the album and made a similar connection, if only unconsiously.

Or I could be completely full of shit.

I remember somebody asking director Don Siegel if his original "Invasion of the Bodysnatchers" was a parable about left vs right politics.

He snorted derisively and said "It's about Hollywood studio guys."

TMink said...

Ya know Steve, I listen to my iPod a LOT at work when I am doing paperwork (BORING) and I listen through the i-deck. It is small, and sounds really satisfying because it is made by the folks at Monitor Audio and they have a digitial analogue converter in the machine that is better than the one crammed in the iPod. It really sounds OK, certainly better than my computer speakers.

But good music works no matter what you play it through. It is a powerful neural hack. I do think that the hack works a better through a decent system though, at least for me.

Cheers and thanks for the info.


TMink said...

Re. Invasion, I watched that recently with wife and eldest daughter, a fun movie (scarry enough to give the 12 year old bad dreams about seed pods.) They interview the actor who gives the same answer, saying that he thought it was about crass commercialism and money grubbing record company I mean movie executives.