I was 17 the year Tunnel of Love was released; Bruce Springsteen was 38 and intent on ruminating, on taking stock, on running down a list of decisions and regrets, looking backward and around himself, because he was unable to see the way forward. I missed that then. To me, the album was just good; I simply didn’t know enough to recognize the pain and confusion that was quite real, quite apparent, had I known what to look for. Everything, it seems, was fair game, fodder for the music—his marriage, his sense of self-worth, his confidence in his ability to get even one thing right. What comes off the groove is not quite an emotional breakdown, but the tears are not far from the edge of his eyelids as he unloads some of the most trenchant, inward-looking lyrics he’d ever write, in a voice that is by turns soft/yearning and brash/cocky, set to music made almost entirely on his own. Tunnel of Love is an album-length meditation on the possibilities of love, as well as its limitations.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Tunnel of Love is one of those things that make more and more sense as you get older. Like mortgages or whiskey.
Read more of Rob Smith’s brilliant reappraisal of the album at Popdose.