For fans of: Eddie Vedder, Gaslight Anthem, Parker Millsap
Bruce Springsteen’s latest studio album, High Hopes is both a battle cry for the future while recalling themes from the past. The album’s new material is anchored by older tracks, American Skin (41 Shots) and The Ghost of Tom Joad are reworked and refreshed, thanks to some help from Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello. Morello leaves quite a fingerprint on Springsteen’s 18th studio venture, appearing on 8 of the album’s tracks. Morello filled in for Steven Van Zandt during some tour dates while Van Zandt was filming (Van Zandt moonlights as an actor). Springsteen was quickly inspired to work with Morello on some tracks. Their collaboration is what led to Morello’s hefty contribution to the album. Also appearing on High Hopes is E Street Band’s dearly missed Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici, due to outtakes from previous albums appearing on High Hopes. Stepping in as Clemon’s touring replacement, and credited saxophonist on High Hopes is Jake Clemons, Clarence’s nephew.
In addition to revisited songs from Springsteen’s repository, there are three covers: Tim Scott McConnell’s title track, High Hopes, The Saints’ Just Like Fire Would, and Suicide’s Dream Baby Dream. In reality, Springsteen’s new effort can be a bit confusing at times. There are brooding tracks like Down in the Hole and The Ghost of Tom Joad juxtaposed with High Hopes, Dream Baby Dream, Heaven’s Wall and This is Your Sword that have themes of persistent hope. It seems half the album drags you down while the other half reassures you to keep pushing forward. The album seems to lack a consistent statement. The obvious crutch with High Hopes is that the older, reworked songs from Springsteen career are what carry the album.
But let’s give the Boss some credit. Inconsistent album flow or not, both songs of desperation and songs of determination are what Bruce does best. There are some adversities with this album, but it’s clear Springsteen is trying to venture away from the rallying anthems of the 80’s. Creatively, Springsteen has shown that he has the courage to lose sight of the shore and that’s what any self-respecting artist who’s had a career as sustainable as Bruce’s should do. Just like any Springsteen work, most songs have strong, blue-collar narratives that are both vulnerable and honest. Springsteen has always been a master storyteller, and in that regard, High Hopes doesn’t disappoint.
- High Hopes- Tim Scott McConnell*
- Harry’s Place- Springsteen*
- American Skin (41 Shots)- Springsteen*
- Just Like Fire Would- Chris Bailey (The Saints)*
- Down in the Hole- Springsteen
- Heaven’s Wall- Springsteen*
- Frankie Fell in Love- Springsteen
- This is Your Sword- Springsteen
- Hunter of Invisible Game- Springsteen*
- The Ghost of Tom Joad- Springsteen*
- The Wall- Springsteen
- Dream Baby Dream- Martin Rev / Alan Vega (Suicide)*
Released January 13, 2014