Many pop musicians reach a point where they become irrelevant, and Human Touch is Bruce Springsteen’s; happily remarried and settled down, he doesn’t have a whole lot of fire in his belly or interesting topics to write about, and the most memorable lyrics concern topics like childhood reminiscences. While ’57 Channels and Nothing On’ is sharper than its first verse would belie, its basic premise still betrays Springsteen’s more domesticated lifestyle. Musically, it’s similar to Tunnel Of Love, but less intricate and attempting to rock harder; the backing musicians lack the colour and energy that the E-Street Band bought to earlier recordings. Individually most of the tracks still have a distinctive Springsteen feel, if somewhat watered down, but a lack of strong songs and an overall blandness make Human Touch one of Springsteen’s least essential albums.
It doesn’t help that the strongest song here, the opening title track, is dragged out to over six minutes; it’s a fine pop song, but its effectiveness is diminished at that length. Apart from the low key and repetitive ’57 Channels’, the other irritating track is ‘Pony Boy’, a strange acoustic piece that closes the album. Otherwise, Human Touch is a bunch of second tier Springsteen material that’s most enjoyable but which feels slight overall, lacking the innovation and passion of previous efforts.
Human Touch is a conscientious effort from Springsteen, but it’s severely lacking in inspiration.