Picks and Pans Review: The River

updated 11/24/1980 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/24/1980 AT 01:00 AM EST

Bruce Springsteen

Roll over, Godot. The waiting's over, and if Springsteen's first record in two years isn't a Second Coming, it is ambitious, with 20 songs sprawled out over two LPs-83 minutes of roiled rock. Not quite a concept album, 777©Rlverilows from the same psychic and geographic origin as Bruce's previous works. The mood is set in the title cut, in which a young boy and girl marry, get swept away in the social current of blue-collar America and drift to the shores of disillusionment. Other depressing notions involve a son leaving home {Independence Day), runaway husbands {Hungry Heart), single mothers (I Wanna Marry You), soured love (Fade Away) and trapped women {Jackson Cage). The characters in these vignettes have little more depth than the cut-out bridal party portrayed on the album jacket. The women all seem helpless Hannahs, usually referred to as "baby" or "little girl," and the men seem obsessed with autos (Cadillac Ranch, Stolen Car, Drive All Night, Wreck on the Highway). Springsteen's poetic bombast, which provided the torque of previous efforts, has given way to restraint. It is rarely as successful as the felicitous couplet in Sherry Darling. "Your Mama's yappin' in the back seat/Tell her to push over and move them big feet." The album's strength is extraordinary music, full of cleverly shrouded hooks, vibrant backing from the E Street Band and hot-rod vocals. Perhaps now, at 31, Bruce has disposed of his adolescent Asbury Park angst and will find other muses for his considerable talent.

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