Bruce Springsteen albums are most often well-constructed, cohesive statements, but “High Hopes” – released Tuesday – is something different: a collection of covers and leftovers from the last decade or so.
As such, it feels like a musical tag sale, albeit one in a very nice neighborhood. Springsteen credits Tom Morello as his muse here, and his snarling, squealing guitar does more than anything to tie everything together. Their duet on a ferocious version of the two-decade-old song, “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” is clearly the album’s high point.
Another song familiar to fans, “American Skin (41 Shots),” feels bloated and dated, not helped that a decade’s worth of news has made the incident that inspired it recede from the mind.
The success of a tag sale depends largely on individual taste, of course. We’re partial to some of the exuberant pop songs here: the title cut and “Just Like Fire Would” are both obscure cover songs. Springsteen’s own “Frankie Fell in Love” is a lark with funny lyrics. They will remind fans of the treasure trove of unreleased material recorded before “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” much of it so good that when it finally saw the light of day you wondered what he’d been thinking to keep it hidden so long.
Some of the material on this disc was originally set aside for good reason, but Springsteen’s loyal audience will find things to enjoy. It’s best not to come in with hopes too high.
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