Forget “Born to Run”. Forget “Born In the USA”. Forget it all for a little while. “Darkness on the Edge of Town” stands alone as Bruce’s truly defining album. It is his first foray into the dark side of life. It is the place where the characters in “BTR” ended up–a roadblock on Bruce’s long highway. His optimism has waned and his perspective is bleak. Bruce is no longer looking through the eyes of a teenage rebel with a dream.
Despite the legal battles behind the scenes of this album that were quite the catalyst for his descent into darkness, it seems like it was the only logical way to go after embarking on the hopeful escapes in his first three albums. It was the natural progression of his maturity into the music. I would be so bold to say that without this record, Bruce Springsteen may have never reached the heights that this newfound lease on life provided him.
But…enough with my take on the importance of “Darkness…”. The songs speak for themselves on this record. I think the best track is “The Promised Land” because it is like the workingman’s anthem, so to speak. It is Bruce declaring that even though he is living a desolate, machine-like existence just to get by in the cruel world, he still holds on to the dreams of the promised land. Another favorite of mine on the album is the title track. His passion in this particular song you can feel in your veins…literally.
But…the showstopper track has to be “Racing in the Street.” When I first heard this heart wrenching masterpiece, it gave me chills. I do believe that it is probably the most painfully beautiful song I have ever heard. The reality of it will floor you alone.
Overall, the anguish of Bruce on this record can be heard in every track. From the understated cynicism, to his angered and wounded cries and shrieks, this record is a must own.