Springsteen's albums strike familiar chord

New Foundland Herald, 1992-04-25, by: Craig Monk
Blue-collar hero Bruce Springsteen has raised doubts about his artistic integrity by releasing two albums at once
When it comes to releasing new material, Bruce Springsteen seems to have adopted the feast or famine approach. Loyal fans haven't heard from Springsteen since ToL in 1987 - and now in 1992, he bounces back with two new compact discs. While some naysayers doubt Springsteen's ability to underwrite two multi-platinum hits in the 90s, he's off to a pretty impressive start in Newfoundland, at least.

Human Touch is the most commercially viable of Springsteen's new CDs. There are 14 songs here, clocking in at approximately one hour in length. This is a relatively upbeat record, although his much publicized split with the E Street Band has crippled Springsteen's ability to blitz through any songs like Born To Run or No Surrender. There are still powerful flashes of brilliance with songs like 57 Channels (And Nothin' On), Man's Job, Gloria's Eyes, Pony Boy, and the title track. But generally, Springsteen gets mired in his tired old malcontent themes. That said Human Touch still proves that Springsteen has what it takes to sell a few records and there is a place in the market for his music.

Lucky Town, on the other hand, may be the weak cousin of Human Touch. It's being targeted as Springsteen's critical accomplishment. The album is a bit shorter (10 songs, 40 minutes) and more introspective. But it's also quite a bit bitterer. There is great evidence of the edge that fuelled "unpopular" records like Nebraska and Tunnel of Love.

It's not surprising that most of these songs are based on dissatisfaction and unfulfillment, the sort of things which were believable coming out of the mouth of a bachelor jaded by the music press. But I don't know whether or not the happy "forty-something" father of two can convince you this time around. Songs like Better Days, The Big Muddy, My Beautiful Reward, Local Hero and the title track are wonderful vehicles. If Lucky Town is thoroughly successful at any level, it is in its ability to draw the listener in. These are songs of substance which require further attention.

In the end, Springsteen simply seems to be presenting us a couple of very different musical approaches. They are different enough to show progression and make the long-time fans grumble a little but are typical enough to strike those old familiar chords one more time