Darkness On The Edge Of Town
After the success of Born To Run, Springsteen was caught in a legal battle, and unable to release an album for three years, an eternity in the 1970s. The eventual album is darker in vision than his previous work, and the music is simpler, with the romanticized landscapes and characters giving way to grown ups trapped in the bland realities that the previous album’s protagonists sought to avoid, such as working in factories. Darkness On The Edge Of Town is perhaps Springsteen’s most focused and most rock-oriented album, it’s not too self-consciously anthemic and it’s not blatantly commercial, making it the quintessential Springsteen record. Springsteen whips out a stinging guitar solo in almost every song, adding to the edgy mood.
Opener ‘Badlands’ is a perfect encapsulation of the album as a whole; elegant ragtime piano lines struggle against searing guitar, while Springsteen intones insightful lyrics like “Spend your life waiting/for a moment that just don’t come.” ‘Adam Raised A Cain’ raises the intensity another notch, with Springsteen screaming the last verse almost uncontrollably. The E Street Band are a perfect foil in the drama of ‘Candy’s Room’ – a juxtaposition of graceful piano and edgy drumming. The title track is powerfully effective, the verse melody borrowing from Neil Young’s ‘After The Goldrush’, before launching into another aggressive chorus, while ‘Racing In The Street’ adds stylistic variety with a piano ballad, adapting The Rolling Stones’ ‘Street Fighting Man’; “summer’s here and the time is right/For goin’ racin’ in the street.” Even the lesser material is inflected with intensity (‘Streets Of Fire’), or neatly written but unremarkable in such a strong context (‘The Promised Land’).
If you’ve grown up with watered down Springsteen like the Born In The USA hits, don’t write him off before you experience his classic early albums.