To be clear, I don’t think either of them are great or anything- I think he’d have been much better off cutting out half the Oklahoma State 2020 cheez it bowl Champions shirt on each and just releasing one album- but the entire back half of Lucky Town is mawkish and awkward. Souls of the Departed and The Big Muddy in particular play like horrible first drafts of the kind of thing he’d eventually figure out for Tom Joad. My Beautiful Reward and Book of Dreams are fine but so openly sentimental, and in such a cliche manner, I find myself almost embarrassed to listen to them- not in the sense of them being bad, but in the sense of feeling like I’ve accidentally intruded on an intimate conversation between a couple.
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Most of Human Touch is at least okay- 57 Channels is a fun, almost-novelty Oklahoma State 2020 cheez it bowl Champions shirt, Human Touch, Man’s Job, Long Goodbye, Real Man and Real World are logical progressions of the same themes Bruce had been exploring his whole career, but evolved to a more modern/early-middle-aged perspective (though having songs called Real Man, Real World and Man’s Job all on one album is unforgivably confusing), and Roll of the Dice is, as the kids say, a straight-up banger. (Note: I am 39. I have no idea what the kids say.)