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Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Bruce Springsteen - High Hopes (First impressions)

I sat Springsteen to the side until today.
It's not like I was sitting baby in the corner.
I just had these conflicting thoughts.
Would it be good?
Would it be cool to have it as the very first thing that I listened to in 2014?
What if I reserved that place for it and my expectations disallowed it to shine?
Anyway, I went with it.
Set myself the challenge of not listening to it and crossed my fingers that all would work out alright.
And guess what?
It did.
High Hopes bursts from the speakers and greets the new year with a smile.
A big wide everything is seriously alright in the word smile.
Bruce is back.
Okay some people questioned that the album is made up of older tracks, and whisper it, that it was probably substandard material that wasn't fit to see the light of day when written and recorded, but this is Springsteen and the pre-release doomsayers will now be sitting at the table eating huge platefuls of humble pie for failing to keep the faith.
The opening, and title track, High Hopes sounds like a clarion call to arms for all the bosses fans and I very much doubt that any of them will fail to respond.
Harry’s place has Clarence lending his lips from beyond the veil and he dominates as Bruce spins a tale a la Tom Waits.
American Skin that should have been on Wrecking Ball is a stand-alone work of Boss genius that while it wouldn't have sat well in the tracking of Wrecking Ball is wearing High Hopes like a comfortable worn out leather
High five to Tom Morello.
The man is on fire on much of this.
As a foil he is working for his paycheck and every cent is well deserved.
Just like fire would stands out as it is rooted in more traditional boss territory and could have featured on anything in the last few decades, but that’s not to say the baton has been dropped.
It’s just that of all the songs it is the one that most recognizably adheres to the template.
Down in the Hole is striking with its clanging heavy industry intro that has a haunting vocal over it just before the lyrics open the song up. When music fans utter the term blue collar it is Springsteens name that jumps into your mind, and on this song he has created a blue collar anthem for the modern age. One that harks back to employment, even though that work may have been tough, and how it spreads out into everyday life. 
The vocal delivery on this is stunning.
Heaven’s Wall sounds like The Stones getting all spiritual in Harlem up until the point that Bruce kicks in. It’s a live anthem in waiting.
Frankie Fell in Love sounds like Little Steven and the Boss rocking out on the stoop while sharing tales of the past. It’s a rollicking good time of a track and features some nice country fiddle.
This is your Sword has the old time evangelical revival feel to it that manages to avoid sounding holier than thou and instead celebrates love in all its glory.
Hunter of Invisible Game is a game changer in a sense as its initial cinematic strains make way for something far more intimate and reveals a pensive homage to childhood. Or maybe it doesn't and that’s just my initial perception. J
The Ghost of Tom Joad and Morello were made for each other, and I think I actually have him performing it on his own somewhere, but this is the icing on the cake, and I fully expect that Tom Morello was breathless with excitement when he was laying down the guitar for this.
The Wall.  Close your eyes and it hits the spot. Haunting.
Dream Baby Dream is as far removed as the Suicide version as you could imagine, but the slow build up and more humane approach to it has lifted the song and gave it wings. Similar to how Johnny Cash took Hurt from NIN and made it his own the Boss has assumed ownership of Dream Baby Dream.
Initial impressions, personal of course, is that this is even better than wrecking ball.

The vinyl is getting ordered now. 


  1. Great Writeup! Been playing this new Springsteen and it is excellent. Have loved his last few lps. Working on a Dream is an absolute killer lp. The Boss has aged well! Will be buying this when it comes out..

  2. Great Writeup. Yes this new lp is great. Have loved his last few. Working on a Dream is one of my absolute faves of all time! Will be getting this new one when it comes out.