Bruce Springsteen: High Hopes

Bruce Springsteen‘s 18th studio record is a collection of throwaway tracks from the 2002 The Rising sessions, and in my opinion should have stayed in the trash. Where 2012’s Wrecking Ball provided a more direct cry of rage towards the global crisis, High Hopes is meant to look back through Springsteen’s career over the past decade and serve both as a reflection and as closure so that he may keep one foot forward.

My biggest problem with this record is that I think it was rushed. The songs may have already been there, but it was all recorded on the road, so right away that explains, the scattergun approach to the production. If he had waited a few more months after touring Wrecking Ball to attack the production of this record in a more coherent fashion, then I honestly think that might have made all this difference. There aren’t any songs here that I would want to see at a Bruce Springsteen concert in 2014. There are some songs on here that simply don’t quite have the same meaning or message as they did when they were first conceived. “American Skin (41 shots)” was originally written in response to the NYPD shootings of Amadou Diallo and rededicated on this album to Trayvon Martin. When you think about it, a lot of what he preaches on High Hopes isn’t quite as relevant now as it was then. Springsteen has also cited ex-Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello as a muse for most of the record and the two have joined forces, which most likely explains some of the shredding that you hear on this record, that you’ve really heard before (i.e. “The Ghost of Tom Joad”). Morello is the reason this album sounds as fresh as it does, but I think at the same time he’s also the reason why it doesn’t quite play like a Springsteen record.

Bruce Springsteen has always been the rock ‘n roll hero for the blue-collar working man and still has the ability to sing about the death of blue-collar America with such intense rage and still be fresh and resonant. With a career spanning forty years now, some fans who have loved him since the very beginning will probably love this record, just on the strength of that fact that it’s another Springsteen record.  I just can’t get past how inconsistent and incoherent this record is and how it doesn’t sound or play like a Springsteen record. I just know that Springsteen is capable of better work and I saw that with Wrecking Ball and I think he rushed to get High Hopes out.

Luke Helker

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