For years, I have been disappointed by the output of Bruce Springsteen. Having grown up in my formative teenage years with the first three Springsteen classics, and taking to Darkness On the Edge Of Town like a fish takes to water, I measure everything he has released to those four beautiful sets, all which give us a glimpse into the dark soul of human desire and frustration. Many of you who know me, and to your frustration (I heartily apologize for it), know that I felt that The River could have joined those classics except it is interspersed with what I would consider needless track inclusions. For me, it should have been a single LP. But we have talked about this before, you and I.
I also know Bruce Springsteen has fire within him still. Since, he has released albums that have mystic greatness in some of their songs. Bruce has become my greatest enigma. I have largely dismissed much of his music as not being the Bruce of old, the artist of angst he once was. Instead, he makes music without the passion (most of the time). I fault that with not having reason to be angry any longer. And I do NOT blame him for having coin, people. I just say it has clouded who he was.
Many of you love just about everything he makes. I don’t blame you (unless you’re Fricke from Rolling Stone, who finds nearly everything Bruce does a classic). And now, with the release of High Hopes, I have to address the album.
High Hopes is basically an album filled with recovered recorded songs that have never made it to albums (other than this). A lot of the songs are covers of others’ work. Inside of this album is the brilliant “American Skin (41 Shots)”. Now, how that song never made it onto other albums of Springsteen’s is a puzzlement to me. But it is now, which makes me happy to see that song finally get its due. How about the rest?
The album is high energy (partially due to Tom Morello, Bruce has never slowed down either, so it’s really a volatile mix of talent). But the inclusion of the song into the album, stirring it in with the other mixed tunes make the album really feel like an interim release for collectors. I really like “High Hopes”, which opens the album, but it’s a cover, and we have heard it in another incarnation before. Nevertheless, it is a good introduction to the set. After “American Skin”, my first song that brings me back is “Just Like Fire Would”. With its Born In The USA feel, and a musical hint of the first three Springsteen classics in its bones, I love this track but sincerely wish it was one he had written.
“Heaven’s Wall” feels a little out of place to me here. I’m not even sure where it fits. Nor do I find any comfort in listening to “Frankie Fell In Love”. I do love the end of “The Wall”, a haunting piece of music. But those songs easily are shadowed by “This Is Your Sword”, another track that’s more early Springsteen than many. There are a few more songs on the album, twelve of them, all told.
Once again I do not find a new album from Springsteen compelling enough to last on my players much beyond a few listens. And so High Hopes gets shelved, pushed and slotted into a shadowed region (dusted with sadness and loss).
Normally, I don’t do reviews of albums I cannot recommend to fans of a certain genre or band. But Springsteen gets examined by me largely because I consider Born To Run the greatest Rock and Roll album ever created. And I know a lot of you take umbrage with me about holding anything of Springsteen against his best…but i can’t help it.