The New Classic
This is a surprisingly piecemeal album from an artist who is normally all about the big picture.
Bruce Springsteen albums are often statements, whether 2002’s The Rising’s heartfelt response to 9/11, or 2012’s Wrecking Ball’s vitriolic condemnation of the fat-cat bankers behind the global financial crash. High Hopes, by comparison, sounds like something he has thrown together for a laugh.
Recorded on the road, it is a loose collection of curios, covers and live-show favourites that Springsteen feels “deserved a proper live recording”. It thus inevitably has something of a ragbag feel, with obscure covers rubbing shoulders with Boss originals that are close on 20 years old.
Inevitably, being Springsteen, there are highlights. The Wall is a rambunctious tribute to his childhood hero, Walter Cichon, the singer in 1960s New Jersey bar band the Motifs who was lost in action in Vietnam; the righteous American Skin (41 Shots) was originally written in reaction to the 1999 shooting of immigrant Amadou Diallo by New York cops, and is now re-dedicated to Trayvon Martin.
Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello appears throughout and duets on a reworking of Springsteen’s classic protest song The Ghost of Tom Joad, while covers range from a throbbing roustabout through Australian punks the Saints’ Just Like Fire Would to a visceral take on Suicide’s drone anthem, Dream Baby Dream. Nevertheless, this album may be one for hardcore fans more than floating voters.