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High Hopes

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Album Review

There isn't another Bruce Springsteen album like High Hopes. Cobbled together from covers — of other songwriters along with the Boss himself ("American Skin [41 Shots]" and "The Ghost of Tom Joad" are both revived) — and outtakes from the last decade, High Hopes doesn't have the cohesion or gilded surfaces of Wrecking Ball, but neither is it quite a clearinghouse of leftovers. Inspired in part by Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, who has proven to be a brother in arms to Springsteen, as well as a substitute for Steven Van Zandt in the E-Street Band, High Hopes certainly bears the proud stamp of Morello, both in its workingman's politics and in its cinematic sound. Much of this record oscillates between the moody and militant, particularly in the politically charged numbers, which are often colored by percussive guitar squalls. Here, the RATM guitarist often resembles a Nils Lofgren stripped of blues or lyricism — think of the gusts of noise on "Tunnel of Love" without any melodicism — and that's a bracing change for Springsteen, who has shown interest in atmospherics but usually when they're coming from keyboards, not six strings. Such sociological talk suggests High Hopes is nothing but rallying cries and downhearted laments, but the fascinating thing about this unkempt collection is how these protest songs and workingman's anthems are surrounded by intimate tunes, ranging from a cover of the Saints' latter-day "Just Like Fire Would" to a strangely soothing interpretation of Suicide's "Dream Baby Dream." Morello reportedly had as much to do with the inclusion of these covers as he did with the record's set pieces — a stirring "The Ghost of Tom Joad," "American Skin" (which can't help but seem like a reference to the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin in this context), and "High Hopes," a Tim Scott McConnell song first recorded in the '90s — and there's a certain sober passion that ties all these songs together but, in turn, it makes the rest of the record all the more compelling because the pieces simply don't fit. There's the rousing Gaelic rock of "This Is Your Sword," sounding a bit like a rejected closing credit theme for The Wire; "Down in the Hole," which rides the same train-track rhythm as "I'm on Fire;" the complicated waltz of "Hunter of Invisible Game," softer and stranger than much of the rest here; "Harry's Place," a bit of synthesized Sopranos noir that sounds much older than its ten years; and the absolutely glorious "Frankie Fell in Love," as open-hearted and romantic a song as Springsteen has ever written. Strictly speaking, these 12 songs don't cohere into a mood or narrative but after two decades of deliberate, purposeful albums, it's rather thrilling to hear Springsteen revel in a mess of contradictions.

Customer Reviews


Big Bruce fan, over 25 years, seen him in concert 11 times. Love his work, but this really is mediocre. Frankie Fell in Love, for example, feels like a 'Human Touch' outtake, and that can never be a good thing. Tom Morello seems to bring noise and confusion rather than progress to the whole project. What they've done to 'The Ghost of Tom Joad' just made me want to cry. The original is so powerful and faultless and I love the live electric versions but what's with the shared vocals on this song. Would have loved to hear Bruce do full vocals on an electric version, not being a guest on his own song. There are some real positives, though. 'The Wall', 'Hunter of Invisible Game' and 'Heaven's Wall' but ultimately felt like this should have been part of an updated 'Tracks' style collection. I still thing that there is no-one else who can come close to Springsteen, but this hasn't made being a fan easy!

Rough, disjointed, gorgeous

Bruce's off-cuts from the last 10 years... And they sound more captivating and fresher than they have any right to.

A disjointed triumph.

Simply Stunning

The Boss back to his best.... Haunting tunes alongside rock anthems. Tom Morello adds his own inspired unique talents to "The Ghost Of Tom Joad". But my personal favourite is American Skin (41 Shots).
This album is amust for all Springsteen fans new or old!


Born: 23 September 1949 in Freehold, NJ

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

In the decades following his emergence on the national scene in 1975, Bruce Springsteen proved to be that rarity among popular musicians, an artist who maintained his status as a frontline recording and performing star, consistently selling millions of albums and selling out arenas and stadiums around the world year after year, as well as retaining widespread critical approbation, with ecstatic reviews greeting those discs and shows. Although there were a few speed bumps along the way in Springsteen's...
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