Not a harsh critique at all, more something that bothers me a little. I'll start at the beginning: one minute you're here, edge of town
Very well said, @Jerseyfornia I fell that Bruce has constructed his - or E Street's - own town, or landscape, that does include various phrases that he's claimed as his own. In a way somewhat akin to - just a bit more abstract - to what Stephen King has done; he's created his own Maine, his own towns and realiy/realities.
This is interesting.... He's negating his younger self.
They say that love, love comes and goes but darling what, what do they know? (meaning now that love never goes?)
It's just nobody knows honey where love goes but when it goes it's gone gone..
"Edge of town" doesn't bother me but more so the recycling of words or generic worn-out phrases like "one minute you're here", "gravel road", "muddy banks", "a sky as black as stone", "dark evening stars", "rose up in flames", "the thick smell of", "sheets stained with", "'neath the summer sun", "from the mystic far", "click down the hall", "need you by my side/Your love and I'm alive". After all these years I have come to know Bruce and his songwriting style, his formula and imagery. It's a nice surprise when he comes up with something less typical for him like "Lights come up at the Legion Hall/Pool cues go back up on the wall/You pack your guitar and have one last beer/With just the ringing in your ears" or "It's a fixed game without any rules/An empty table on a ship of fools/I'm holding hearts, I play the pair/I'm going all in 'cause I don't care" or "Parched crops dying 'neath a dead sun/We've been praying but no good comes/The dog's howling, home's stripped bare/We've been worried but now we're scared".
Rather than looking at lyrics being repetitive I rather see then as archetypes. Too many to go into from words, lines and songs, "edge of town" is interesting. Bruce writes about people on the edge or out of society and does so geographically as well. On Western Stars when the "drifters" sort of settled down they still settled down on the county or state border.
Those mentions don't bother me because in the end it is an album with a strong nostalgic and emotional content. It's like including Jenny Needs a Shooter, for me. Bring pleasant ghosts from your past to your present. Personally it doesn't bother me. But the truth is that I am still in the phase of listening to the music without paying too much attention to the lyrics (which as a non-English native speaker requires some effort).
Is it coincidence or intent that we get so many touchstones in the opening track? The train, the carnival, the edge of town, the river. Or is it just that when Springsteen writes like Springsteen, these are places that naturally recur?