Let’s cut to the chase — Bruce Springsteen’s new record, High Hopes, in no way is his best musical effort. It’s a bit long, it lacks the personal resonance most of his good records and frankly, at the end of the day, this release will be long-forgotten in his iconic catalog.
Yet, maybe it’s the Bruce apologist in me that can’t slam the record completely. This is Bruce Springsteen after all. Even on his worst day The Boss still knows how to construct a solid song — it might not be something legendary, but it’s also not gag reflex-inducing garbage either.
Probably the best description of High Hopes came from our music editor and diehard Springsteen fan — this record would’ve worked better as six song EP.
High Hopes is a compilation of B-sides, re-recordings, covers and some newer stuff. The big question is — why did this have to be a 12-song record? High Hopes adds next to nothing to the vaunted catalog of Bruce Springsteen, outside producing a catchy song (the title track) to add to the live experience and a reason for a new tour. If the purpose was to merely “put something out there” then keep it short and sweet. Did we honestly need a new version of “The Ghost of Tom Joad?” Of course we didn’t. The album contains a lot of filler which causes the album to lack the punch and staying power of The Boss’ last effort, Wrecking Ball (a polarizing record in itself). So with all that, why not cut High Hopes in half and make it an EP. How special would that be? I mean, when was the last time Bruce Springsteen produced an EP?
Yet, at the end of the day, as we said before, this is still The Boss and even the most superfluous and underwhelming cuts are still solid, mildly entertaining and at worst — decent.
As stated before, the title track is such a good song. It’s basically Bruce on the Bayou, but hot damn, does this song have a way of weaving itself into your mental jukebox. The Big Easy-influenced back beat and chorus mixed with some fantastic guitar work from Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello make this song shine like a bright star on this album. It’s got such a positive vibe to it, that you can’t help but get caught up in.
Then there’s “Harry’s Place.” Why this may not have the “playlist appeal” of “High Hopes” it’s one that really hits you with its lyrical power and a little bit of sauciness from The Boss. Yes, Bruce drops the ol’ F-bomb multiple times within the song, which is actually a bit jarring. Yet, for some reason you appreciate this language within the context of the song. It’s not done for shock value, it’s done because the song dictates it and few songwriters can make that work.
Bruce Springsteen’s latest record is not his best work to date, but considering what it is, a collection of cast-offs, covers and what-nots, it’s a pretty solid album. This will no doubt be one of his “lost” records as his next work of all-original music will no doubt eclipse this release. For now, treat High Hopes, as if it were an EP — a quick listen that will satiate your thirst for new Springsteen music.