Working On a Dream

Working On a Dream

Bruce Springsteen has it both ways here. He manages to speak for the tenor of the nation with the album's title track and attempts a western epic with the eight-minute "Outlaw Pete," but elsewhere dials down the drama with short, compact pop songs that enjoy their modest surroundings. Producer Brendan O'Brien keeps the band on a tight leash, marshaling a wall of sound that's dense with ringing guitars and stealth keyboards. Springsteen yearns for his younger days with the pangs of simple infatuation on "Queen Of the Supermarket" and offers basic platitudes for "What Love Can Do." In his desire to turn an album around quicker than he has in some time, he's left his lyrics a bit ragged, but makes up for it with an immediacy of tone. His confident vocals identify every track from the jaunty roadhouse jam of "Good Eye" to the somber crawl of "The Wrestler," featured in the Mickey Rourke film of the same name. "My Lucky Day," "Kingdom Of Days" and "Surprise, Surprise" sing out with a sincerity that recalls the AM guitar pop of the mid-'60s with Bruce looking back and figuring that some old- fashioned musical values might vault him ahead into the future.

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