After going 18 years without collaborating on a full-length album, the fine Working on a Dream marks Bruce Springsteen's third pairing with the E Street Band this decade. This time, Springsteen and his E Street cohorts mine the lush, pop sound of the 1960s.
From the Chad and Jeremy jangle of "Tomorrow Never Knows" to the cinematic sweep of epic opener "Outlaw Pete," the group displays an expansive and impressive knowledge of the musical period that preceded them.
Once again, as with all of Springsteen and the E Street Band's recent material, producer Brendan O'Brien provides ambiance. Although his electronic dabbling in the past has been occasionally meddling, this time around, O'Brien comfortably embodies the role of a post-millennial Phil Spector. O'Brien's wall of sound is best exemplified by the shimmering, choral coda on "The Last Carnival" (a eulogy for deceased E Streeter Danny Federici), and the reverb-laden, driving "My Lucky Day." Sometimes, like with the echoed clangs of "What Love Can Do," O'Brien's wizardry is burdensome.
One of Springsteen's most adventurous outings, Working on a Dream is a hard read. Easily misinterpreted moments like the schmaltzy "Queen of the Supermarket," which mimics classic Bacharach, should be overlooked for more unforgivable moments--like the dearth of lyrical prowess found in the bouncy "Surprise, Surprise."
While Springsteen accurately captures the catchy simplicity of '60s pop, a bit more lyrical heft is expected. Like the titular dream, the album could use more work, yet that still does not diminish the overall pleasure it provides.