Bruce Springsteen reconvened the E Street Band to record 2007’s Magic, one of his most underrated albums—and one of his most thoroughly political. Producer Brendan O’Brien was once again behind the mixing desk, helping to deliver a modern-sounding, radio-friendly album, full of catchy tunes that backed up fierce, uncompromising lyrics. “Radio Nowhere,” the buzzy opening track, pays tribute to FM radio while also mourning its rapidly approaching demise; the song finally gave Springsteen an on-the-record opportunity to cry out “Is anybody alive out there?”—a line he’d been exhorting at live shows for years. “Girls in Their Summer Clothes,” meanwhile, is a ballad that casts Springsteen in the role of the crooner, with a touch of Wall of Sound on the production. But the heart of the record is in its unabashed criticism of George W. Bush’s administration, and the Iraq War it had undertaken in the early 2000s. Springsteen said that the title is about the times “when what’s true can be made to seem like a lie, and what’s a lie can be made to seem true”—and that’s exactly what he sings about in the title track: sleight-of-hand, subterfuge, legerdemain. The theme continues on “Livin’ in the Future,” in which the narrator insists that the terrible things they see and feel aren’t real: “We’re livin’ in the future/And none of this has happened yet.” The album’s denouement comes in the form of two late tracks: “Last to Die” and “Long Walk Home.” The former draws its title from a statement made by John Kerry in 1971, when he testified before Congress about Vietnam and asked, “Who’ll be the last to die for a mistake?” Springsteen applies that sentiment to the war in Iraq, noting cynically, “We don’t measure the blood we’ve drawn anymore/We just stack the bodies outside the door.” And “Long Walk Home”—an updated version of the story he told in Born in the USA’s “My Hometown”—is almost anthemic, with its narrator angry, but still hopeful.

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