Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes
Poor old Bruce. Every 40 years or so he tries to do a bit of housekeeping, then gets dumped on for sharing the bits and pieces he’s swept up, no matter how well tidied them up or rearranged they are.
Springsteen’s latest, High Hopes, out today on Columbia, has been criticized for being a yard sale, a collection of mostly unreleased work that for some reason Springsteen hasn’t deemed worthy of studio album inclusion till now.
But if you want to put the blame on somebody, let it fall on Rage Against the Machine’s guitarist Tom Morello for the over blown, wah wah- saturated arrangements on many of the tunes he’s featured on. In the liner notes, Springsteen gives Morello credit for “pushing the project to another level.” Although Morello’s fiery accompaniments worked well live on songs including “Ghost Of Tom Joad” and “American Skin (41 Shots,”) in many instances on High Hopes, that push in the studio is a bit too hard, more like an amplified shove that overwhelms the material.
Springsteen’s best efforts here are “Just Like Fire Would,” “Frankie Fell In Love,” “The Wall” and “Hunter of Invisible Game.”
A cover of Australian rockers The Saints’ “Just Like Fire Would,” and Springsteen’s “Frankie Fell In Love” sound like ’70s Stone Pony ebullience that would later translate into prance in front of your seat, cigarette lighter-waving, Boss arena rock.
For anyone who’s ever been to the black stone memorial in D.C. to Vietnam Vets, Springsteen’s “The Wall” perfectly captures the misery and the stark grandeur of the site where “apology and forgiveness got no place here at all.” It’s a heart-rending tribute to the inspiration for the song, New Jersey rocker Walter Cichon, who led the ’60s era Jersey Shore rock outfit The Motifs.
“Hunter of Invisible Game” is a new composition with a Celtic feel, a Dylan-esque rendering of a bleak end times landscape with “empty cities and burning plains, bone yard rattle and black smoke.” But redemption will come, he concludes, because “there’s a kingdom of love waiting to be reclaimed.”
And when that time comes, Bruce will lead us, resurrecting our own high hopes and his in future albums. As it is with most things Springsteen, even when his footing on this ever shifting musical landscape occasionally seems a bit unsure, following him has always been the best solution.
By Grant Britt