tue 17/05/2022

Bruce Springsteen - High Hopes | reviews, news & interviews

Bruce Springsteen - High Hopes

Bruce Springsteen - High Hopes

The Boss looks to his past for inspiration

As fans of Dylan’s Bootleg series will testify, “odds and ends” albums may require a small modification of expectations. High Hopes falls into a similar category: it’s a collection of 12 re-recordings, outtakes and covers of material that the Boss couldn’t find a home for in his previous 17 albums. Listeners may not find the experience especially consistent, but, still, there are some real nuggets here.

Much of this is down to guitarist Tom Morello. Last year, Morello toured with the E Street Band whilst Steve Van Zant was off acting. Chemistry developed between the Rage Against The Machine axe man and his new band leader, the upshot being an invite to lend his skills to the new recordings planned for this album. And, to a large extent, his presence has resulted in something both familiar and yet unexpected. “Harry’s Place” and “Heaven’s Wall” walk a line just across the street from Springsteen’s more traditional sound: an Eighties vibe distinct from Springsteen’s own. “American Skin (41 Shots)”, about the police shooting of a young immigrant, sounds even sadder than the live version you might know.

But, if some songs make you wonder why they didn’t make it onto earlier studio albums, others decidedly don’t. The most noticeable offender is the sledgehammer-subtle lead single (surely the jaunty “Just Like Fire Would” – another cover – would have worked better?Worst are the outtakes from earlier albums. “Frankie Fell in Love” sounds ballsy at first but becomes turgid on further listens. “This is your Sword” is simply a little dull.

Ultimately, though, all this doesn’t matter. Some have suggested that the most remarkable thing here is “The Ghost of Tom Joad” which sounds like a straight mash-up between Rage Against The Machine and the Boss. Personally, I prefer the pastoral strings of “Hunter of Invisible Game”: a wonderful, bittersweet, uplifting, all-American sound. Pure Springsteen you might say. Except, as the publicity material rightly claims, there really wouldn’t have been any place for it anywhere else.

Overleaf: Watch the video for Springsteen's "High Hopes"

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