(Entertainment Weekly) -- Since reuniting the E Street Band in concert in 1999, Bruce Springsteen has brought that lineup back into the studio to record two widely praised albums.
Bruce Springsteen's new album with the E Street Band is more upbeat than previous efforts.
As successful as that return has been, though, both 2002's "The Rising" and 2007's "Magic" came from painful places -- one an effort to heal after 9/11, the other a bitter Bush-era protest.
"Working on a Dream," the third E Street Band album of the new millennium, feels like a sigh of relief by contrast.
Springsteen's topical concerns have subsided for now, washed away by a high tide of positive personal feelings.
"Our love will chase the trouble away," the Boss promises on the chiming title track.
He sounds downright exhilarated on the uptempo pop anthem "My Lucky Day." And good for him. The guy deserves a break after so much eloquent angst.
Even so, a handful of tunes make it clear that Springsteen still sees a creeping darkness on the edge of town. "What Love Can Do" restates his humanistic faith with an anxious twist: "Darling, we can't stop this train/When it comes crashing through/But let me show you what love can do."
He's bleakest of all in "Life Itself," pleading with a troubled lover in strangled tones. Even at Springsteen's most hopeful, then, his lyrics may always remain subtly haunted.
Yet the warm, bright music blasting away behind him reminds fans what they've known for ages: It's hard to stay downbeat for very long when the E Street Band is playing.
EW Grade: A
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