Sunday, May 22, 2005

One way of looking at Devils & Dust...

...is to ask the question, "Has Springsteen ever made a great record with a band other than the E Streeters?" I'd argue the answer is "No." Nebraska is inarguably great, but he didn't work with any other musicians on that record and the resulting insularity and claustropobia are two big reasons Nebraska is a record for the ages.

Devils & Dust sounds like it's supposed to be an entirely solo album, which goes a long way toward explaining why Springsteen's tour supporting the set has been completely solo, give or take an occasional guest star. Indeed, Springsteen sounds disconnected from the other instruments on Devils & Dust. I don't know for sure, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Springsteen just handed off his solo tapes to Brendan O'Brien and had his producer oversee the overdubbing of the other instruments. On some songs, like the title track, that method makes for some interesting tension. On others, it makes the accompaniment seem superfluous, tacked-on. And you can never say that about the E Street Band, even on their lesser work.

There are other ways of looking at the album, and I plan to do so over the next few days.