Working on a Dream
So it's a drag to have to suffer through "Outlaw Pete," the 8-minute dirge that opens Springsteen's curiously rote Working on a Dream. Its lyrics read like Dust Bowl Workshop 101, an inauspicious beginning to a record that isn't bad so much as boring. Like 2007's far superior Magic, Working opts mostly for the sound of the '60s, lush pop songs that are all ornamentation and no chorus. "Tomorrow Never Knows" nicks its title from the Beatles and its melody from "Here Comes My Baby"; it's a rollicking bit of folk-pop which, like most of Working, dawdles for a bit without making much of an impression.
Working, a record mostly about love and affection, finds Springsteen confusing universal relatability with broad-stroke vagueness. "My Lucky Day," a song where a lover is wanly compared to the title, rides the same cluster of notes over and over and over, while "What Love Can Do" finds the Boss announcing, "Darlin' I can't stop the rain/ or turn your black sky blue." It's not even that he needs some kind of national crisis to inspire him: Whether it's war or romance or layoffs at the factory, Springsteen's strongest songs are never about the event — they're about the reaction. On Working, those responses are so watered-down and by-the-book that they barely even register.