Bruce Springsteen is a man who should need no introduction, back with his eighteenth studio album High Hopes The Boss has taken the unusual decision of forgoing the normal writing process and instead releasing a selection of reworked tracks and some covers. He’s joined, as usual, by The E Street Band but also be a few new additions including one Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) who has been playing with the great man live.
The fact that this album is essentially a compilation album is without a doubt it’s biggest weakness. It just doesn’t flow that well. There is no overriding plan here and it does what a lot of compilation albums do, which is feel like they have been put together with no real rhyme or reason. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t some great songs on here, there are, but when they are put together in this way, they definitely lose something.
However, that doesn’t prevent some great moments on this album. The opening two shot of the title track and “Harry’s Place” have some great funky blues filled riffs and are both toe-tapping rock tracks that are likely to weedle their way into your head. While “Hunters of Invisible Game” is a stripped back acoustic track that relies on the guitar and Springsteen’s, as always, fantastic vocals. Meanwhile the reworking of “The Ghost of Tom Joad” is Morello’s crowning moment on the album as his guitar parts really come to the fore and he actually trades off on vocals with Bruce to create an amazing reworking of an already pretty damn good track.
However, there are also a lot of songs here that don’t feel essential. When you are reworking old tracks you need to make them stand out, make them feel different but the likes of “Down in a Hole” and “The Wall” do nothing for me on this album. It also just in general lacks a bit of punch. That special edge that makes Bruce Springsteen The Boss.
I like this album, I just don’t love this album, and that’s sad because I want to love it. It’s true that it can’t be seen as a tragedy or even a misstep by Springsteen but it really does scream stop-gap to keep the fans happy until we get a new album full of fresh new material and I guess that’s why this is a safe bet. This isn’t going to turn anyone off Springsteen and if anything is going to turn more people on to him. Those people that would have been buying his next new album proper are still going to buy it and until they can do that High Hopes is just a small morsel to whet their appetite.