in personal terms this is, after all, his first album since his marriage to Christie Brinkley and the birth of their child. His defensive cockiness has softened into a much more appealing confidence, and he's abandoned the ambitious concepts he's relied on to unify past LPs.
The danger of a biographical reading of The Bridge, however, is that Joel has historically been the least self-revealing of songwriters a fact that's caused him no end of problems with critics. Whereas most literate rock & roll trades on the romantic illusion of an artist sharing his deepest inner feelings with an audience of sympathetic souls, Joel has always defiantly and sometimes arrogantly kept his distance. His theatrical flair, fondness for classic song structure and penchant for styling his vocals to suit the characters he sings about all have roots in a tradition that stretches beyond rock & roll to the formal artifice of Tin Pan Alley and Broadway. Where the masks leave off and the man begins is probably no easier for Joel himself to determine than it is for his listeners.
As he did on his 1977 LP The Stranger, Joel makes this dramatic tension part of The Bridge. "You swore to yourself a long time ago/There were some things that people never needed to know," Joel sings on the edgy "Code of Silence," the last song he wrote for The Bridge. As Cyndi Lauper who earned the first co-writing credit in Joel's career for helping him through the composer's block that gripped him when he started to write the tune wails in and out of the vocal harmony, Joel wonders, "Isn't that a kind of madness/To be living by a code of silence/When you've really got a lot to say?" The message of emotional liberation in "Code of Silence" echoes the theme of the grinding guitar rocker "A Matter of Trust," where Joel posits the virtue of trust as preventive medicine for the sort of love that "is just a lie of the soul/A constant battle for the ultimate state of control."
A steady movement from polished rockers to full-blooded ballads sets the musical rhythm of The Bridge, while the lyric concerns of the LP fluctuate between the lust for control and the simultaneous desire to give it up and gain the sustaining warmth of love. In the elegant ballad "Temptation," the singer weighs the demands of "business" and the opinions of friends ("They're afraid