on 18 January 2006
This is the Springsteen album everyone forgets. This is perhaps understandable, sandwiched as it is between the twin commercial peaks (the world conquering ‘Born In The USA’ aside) of ‘Born To Run’ and ‘The River’. But ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ is a criminally neglected masterpiece: arguably Springsteen’s finest album. Musically, the Boss was at his peak in the mid 70s to the early 80s, and this is slap bang in the middle of that period. But what makes it stand out is the fact it has everything – newfound maturity, variety and deft blending of stark ballads with up-tempo rockers.
From the very start, we know this is Springsteen at his voice-of-a-generation best. Just witness these killer opening lines from ‘Badlands’: ‘Lights out tonight/Trouble in the Heartlands/Got a head on collision/Smashin’ in my guts man’. The romanticism of ‘Born To Run’ is but a distant memory – it’s time to confront life’s harsher realities. And the tortured, jackknifing angst of ‘Adam Raised A Cain’ keeps the proverbial boot placed firmly on the throat.
Songs like ‘Badlands’, ‘The Promised Land’ (the most optimistic song here) and ‘Prove It All Night’ are cut from the stadium rock cloth, but each is infused with furiously articulate spirit and passion. And they mingle effortlessly with the brooding slower numbers like ‘Something In The Night’ and ‘Factory’. It is the piano-led ballad ‘Racing In The Street’ that is arguably the finest song on an album overloaded with gems. It’s a shattering take on the sort of topic Springsteen reputedly glamourises: drag racing. The promised land waiting down the end of ‘Thunder Road’ is a distant memory now: guys race just to avoid ‘dying little by little, piece by piece’. And the narrator’s girlfriend? ‘…all her pretty dreams are torn/She stares off alone in the night/With eyes of one who hates for just being born.’
‘Darkness…’ remains the definitive Boss statement: a brilliant evocation of our everyday hopes, fears and dreams. He may not be musically innovative or groundbreaking. But when it comes to addressing and giving voice to the everyman’s psyche, he’s in a league of his own.
on 25 October 2001
Devoid of the cloying sentimentality that clogged up later albums, such as 'Human Touch' and 'Tunnel of Love', 'Darkness on the Edge of Town' is most definitely a masterpiece. 'The Wild, the Innocent...' was a triumphant and funky debut, 'Born to Run' was a great commercial success (and quite rightly so!) but 'Darkness..' is the album I'll always remember as Springsteen's pinnacle. Only slightly better than 'Greeting from Asbury Park NJ', 'Darkness' represents the power and the subtle, underlying beauty of the best of Springsteen's work. There are few up beat tracks on the album but that does not detract from its overall appeal. Badlands is a vast, moody, pounding song that feels like the musical equivalent of a hangover or smog. Adam raised a Cain is short and punchy and utterly superb. Streets of Fire is much the same, that is to say that they have both become classics. Promised Land is a great breath of fresh air inbetween all the fumes and apathy of city life churned around during the wrappings of the rest of the album, but the oasis of hope turns out to be nothing more than a mirage and the darkness returns. Yet you won't mind.
My favourite, like many others, has got to be 'Racing in the Street'. It just evokes such unpretentious emotion that it cannot fail to move you. It truly is one of the greatest songs ever written and stands as an example of how to make a ballad that is totally raw and honest, without any false sentiment.
Overall: an obvious classic. The best album he has done to date although 'Nebraska', 'The Ghost of Tom Joad', 'The Wild...', 'Greetings from..', 'Born to Run' and 'Born in the USA' come damn close. You can keep the rest. Not a bad track record really.
on 21 October 2004
Like many, I was introduced to Springsteen by Born in the USA. I would never attempt to talk negative about that album, but in my own opinion, it is probably the least Springsteen record he ever released.
If you want to get to the Heart of what Springsteen has been about, over the last 30 years, Darkness is the Album. It has the Rock part down perfectly, but like the album says, the Darkness is never far away.
It has the best of both worlds, the short, sharp rock of songs like Adam raised a Cain, and the melodic anthems, like Racing in the Street, without doubt one of my top 5 Springsteen songs of all time.
There is not a track that I would rate below 4 out of 5, but the standouts for me, this from an album that I already love start to finish anyway, are Adam Raised a Cain, Racing in the Street, Prove it all night, and the title track.
Its not going to tell you the world is a great place to live, but if an album about fighting to break away from small town problems, like family and redundancy, can uplift you, this is the one.
I'm not a big Springsteen fan. I recall listening to the 'Born To Run' album when a friend lent it to me and being left puzzled as to why it had such a big reputation. I've never heard it since. This album though touched a nerve as soon as I heard it. Springsteen can be poetic, but not like his hero Bob Dylan. He is more earnest and less wordy. I find his expression of how and why people behave the way they do frightening. 'Racing In The Street' is a prime example: the disillusioned, the disenfranchised and the have-nots can curl up and die or go for it and damn the consequences. 'Adam Raised A Cain' contains a similar power in its tale of an unwanted birthright. Across the album there's also hope and defiance, though it flickers like a vulnerable candle. Meanwhile, the E Street Band are on buoyant form and the album is, in my opinion, probably Springsteen's most consistent, musically, thematically and in terms of quality.
on 28 March 2011
Many years ago I heard Born to run. It was the song of 1976 and I adored it. For some odd reason I never bought the album and Springsteen faded from my life. He went on to become the mega star and I never listened. Now, in my late 50s I am listening to the songs of the youth I never had.
Springsteen albums are like barbed wire fences. Some songs like the wire, some massive songs piled like stakes into the ground and one always right through the heart. Racing in the Street is a lament for something lost, the confusion when the testosterone rush of teenage life vanishes and you have not yet discovered you'll spend the rest of your life looking for it.
Candy's room is just weird, but how come you can't stop playing it?
Badlands and The Promised land are sing along songs, until the tears start. They are the sound of the end of youth.
The album is a mess of regrets, confusion and bewilderment as to where the hell did youth go. It is a masterpiece and boy am I glad I did not hear it in my twenties.
on 9 February 2012
I'm not an huge Springsteen fan, if fact I've bought a number of his albums which in retropect I rarely listen to. However, this is an exceptional album which has a bleak magic that I suspect he has sought to reproduce in later works. This album seems to capture him at a point where the joy of success, through making loud celebratory music, is tempered by a growing adult awareness of reality. On The River, and some other albums he mixes the moods but on Darkness, you get a real insight into the mind of a thoughtful and honest singer/songwriter before the myth really took over. I don't know anything about ordinary american life but the tracks enable me to paint my own picture that I can relate to. That itself does not make a great album, the way the E Street Band built the sound, without overwhelming the tracks makes this a beautifully balanced album (special mention to Roy Bittan on piano). Having bought The Promise (which is essentially a curio) you can see that the flaws were genuinely left out. Sometimes you hear, deleted/unused tracks and they add to the original. Here, you see that Darkness was spot on. If you buy one Springsteen album, buy this. If you don't like Springsteen, try this and don't buy any others!
on 14 November 2005
It's hard to pick a favourite Springsteen album, but after much reflection, Darkness comes out top. It's tough and dark, it lurks in the shadows, and it gets right under your skin.
From beginning to end, it's an album stuffed with songs that just seem to get better, right up to the awesome title track (if I was condemned to be able to listen to only one song for the rest of my life, I'd choose Darkness On The Edge Of Town).
After marvelling at one of the best opening tracks of all time, stop along the way to savour Something In The Night, where Bruce's anguish seeps into you and the lyrics come back in flashes for days.
Move on to Racing In The Street and you'll soon be aching for the freedom of the road and the simple melody will haunt you. And then Promised Land, where your dreams will be crushed by the cold reality of life.
And I haven't even spoken of Candy's Room or Streets of Fire.
Just buy it, drop it into the CD tray, close your eyes ... and you'll know.
on 15 December 1999
I must say that i'm biased. This was the 1st Springsteen album that I ever heard, and it changed my life. Previous to The Boss, The Beatles were the only group that I really adored. But after listening to this album, and reading a Springsteen biography by Patrick Humphries (my idol, critic-wise), I was completley converted. Previously to "Darkness...", Springsteen had made "Born To Run", a shining album trembling of energy. Here, the mood is much more dark (no pun intended). And while the people in "Born To Run" were young, passionate and strong, most of the characters in "Darkness..." are resigned, cynical and desperate. "No Distance Left To Run", as Damon Albarn would say. The album opens with the terrific "Badlands", full of absolute truths like "poor men wanna be rich/rich men wanna be king/ and a king ain't satisfied/till he rules everything". Also noteworthy is the drumming of the greatly underrated Max Weinberg (pre-Conan). But, although the album has its' fair share of rockers ("Promised Land", Candys' Room") it relies more on the slow, painful ballads. "Racing In The Street" is good enough to make you cry; Springsteens' voice is so tired, and the music so desolate..it would fit nicely into "Lost Highway". And then there's the spine chilling "Adam Raised A Cain". It manages to sound (anti) religious ("you inherit the sins/you inherit the flames") while not losing it's everyday sociological value ("well daddy walked his whole life/for nothing but the pain/now he romas these empty rooms/looking for something to blame"). The album ends with the title track, a majestic, but somehow mocking howl of bombast: "Well if she wants to see me/you can tell her i'm easily found/tell her there's a spot under the bridge and tell her/there's a darkness on the edge of town" Speaks for itself, dosen't it?
on 9 January 2004
For me this is Springsteen's best work to date. Here are the reasons why:
What an opening track! The upbeat music completely contradicts the lyrics. It's one of those songs that really makes you think and everyone can relate to this song.
Adam Raised A Cain
This tune bleeds emotion. Amazing lead guitar from Bruce and the way he goes from a whisper to a scream makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. The main theme here is the relationships between father and son, a theme most men entering adulthood can relate to.
Something In The Night
Bruce's screams say it all as you can actually FEEL his emotions running through your own vains. A masterpiece.
A song that deals with temptation, obssession and love. Musically superb as well as lyrically genious.
Racing In The Street
The narrative of this song is heartbreaking along with the lyrics. Beautiful
The Promised Land
Great chorus and the last verse is one of the best lyrics he's ever written.
Many artists with as much money as Bruce wouldn't have gotten away with a song about the feelings of a blue colar guy but Bruce succeeds because he shows tremendous compassion.
Streets Of Fire
Bruce's vocals are so raw on this song as he delivers it with such passion.
Prove It All Night
A live favourite and the poppiest song on here. Great lyrics and a superb chorus.
The title track is one of the many highlights on here. Vocally, lyrically and musically perfect.
on 12 November 2001
This is the one that followed the brilliant Born To Run and few artists would ever be able to hit such highs again but Springsteen more than manages it here. The strength of songwriting on display here is awesome and backed by one of the tightest bands around. The opening 2 tracks are really powerful guitar rockers and introduce the listener to the dark themes which run throughout. Even the quieter numbers have a real edge to them including the title track which concludes the album. I first heard this album in the early 1980s and it still ranks in my personal top ten.