Seventy-one candles make for an awfully bright birthday cake. When I was sitting in my basement bedroom back in high school, studying Bruce Springsteen lyric sheets like they were holy documents (and, to me, I guess they were), I wasn’t giving much thought to whether I’d still be getting new music from the Boss thirty-plus years later. And yet, here we are, with New Jersey’s favorite son spending his golden years releasing new material at a notably prolific rate. Letter to You, Springsteen’s twentieth studio album, is scheduled for release in October, not much more than a year after its predecessor. For the famously meticulous Springsteen, that’s a remarkable rate, and the news that the album took only a few days to record is similarly striking. It’s as if he’s watching the top of the hourglass drain into the bottom and has decided the getting is good.
“Ghosts,” Springsteen’s new song, admittedly doesn’t compare to his finest efforts. He hasn’t yet figured out how to tap into that white-whiskered madcap invention that Bob Dylan can find every now and again, but the song suggested Springsteen doesn’t yearn for that kind of transformative rejuvenation. Instead, he’s sticks with the retrospection that’s served his well of late, singing of departed cohorts and paying aligned tribute to the basic, beauteous rock music that he played for nickels in scruffy Jersey clubs decades ago. He just wants to keep playing his guitar and bounding around with his longtime friends. He already busted out and won a long, long time ago. Let him keep taking his victory laps until the track goes dark.