THE BOSS: If you love someone, mpfree.
Ehhh, who really cares whether "Radio Nowhere" is any good or not? The really, really, really big huge news is that some ginormous pop star finally took the plunge: not the Stones, not U2, not Madonna, not Metallica . . . Bruce. Of course. Man of the people. Populist to the core. He's giving away the single. HE'S GIVING AWAY THE SINGLE. He's giving away the fucking single.
And because he's giving away the fucking single -- for a week, at least -- we'll abide by the webiquette and mention the album (Magic, due October 2 on Columbia Records, and billed as a "rock" album), a preferred retail link (see below), and the tour, which brings the full E Street Band back to town. They'll play the TD Banknorth Garden on November 18; tickets go on sale September 22.
First impressions (and the wonderful thing about giving away mpfrees is, feel free to form your own): sounds awful contemporary. Which isn't to say cutting edge or groundbreaking, unless you're still someone who finds Social Distortion and Tom Petty to be edgy. It's got that Brendan O'Brien thing going on. (By which we mean it has been micro-engineered to within an inch of its life in order to sound pristine on the radio, though not in a way you'd overtly notice: in his productions for Pearl Jam, among many others, O'Brien perfected the art of shaving the edges off capital-R Rock songs without sacrificing the grain and the grit, a near-magical boon for classic-rockers in the age of lossy compression technologies. Things sound big, but not scary big. It's almost like . . . soft big. If you wanted to be cute, you could say O'Brien invented soft-hard rock. And though O'Brien's invention is a dubious honor, it's also the kind of gradational sonic achievment that has a huge impact on the way things actually sound, even though it goes pretty much unnoticed.)
So, right, "Radio Nowhere": doesn't sound immediately dated (except for the bridge, which sounds derivatively 1980s in an interestingly Dire-Straits-meets-Bon-Jovi kinda way); it's got a wiry, Van Halen-y arpeggio simmering underneath that bar-band-by-numbers chords; and the chorus does that Springsteeny thing that the Boomers all love, where he masks his reassuringly authoratative, self-aggrandizing pronunciation (there's nobody out there) with a disingenuous but heartfelt rhetorical question (is there anybody out there?).
DOWNLOAD: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, "Radio Nowhere" (free on iTunes)