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Bruce Springsteen, ‘High Hopes’ – Song Review

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For Bruce Springsteen, what’s past is prologue.

‘High Hopes’ is his incendiary new single from the album of the same name, due Jan. 14 of next year. It was first recorded by the E Street Band eighteen years ago, during the sessions for their ‘Greatest Hits’ package. It was first released five years before THAT on the debut album from LA roots rock band the Havalinas and written by their lead singer Tim Scott.

It’s a long strange trip for a song that sounds like it was written ten minutes ago. Like Elvis Costello on his recent release with the Roots, ‘Wise Up Ghost,’ Springsteen has looked backward to find a way forward. It may have been written more than twenty years ago, but lyrically, ‘High Hopes’ is as contemporary as tomorrow’s newspaper and continues themes Springsteen explored on his 2012 release ‘Wrecking Ball.’ It’s a song about the struggle to find hope in a culture dominated by greed and selfishness.

Musically, Springsteen has brought the full fire of the modern incarnation of E Street into the studio for the first time. He’s had plenty of great records since the dawn of the “Reunion Era,” which began back in 1999 as the original band members gathered together for their first tour since ‘Tunnel of Love.’ On albums like ‘Magic’ and ‘Working On A Dream,’ the sound has been assembled piecemeal, with a handful of core band members creating the foundation and other E Streeters laying their parts on top.

Recorded during the band’s Australian tour earlier this year, ‘High Hopes’ is as live and immediate as it gets. The E Street Horns and backing singers from the Wrecking Ball tour add texture and bite to the track. At its foundation are E Street fundamentals — the relentless piano of Roy Bittan, Max Weinberg’s drums filling the pocket but escaping for gulps of air at every opening.

And then there’s Tom Morello. He’s been a guest player with Springsteen and the band for a while, and appeared on ‘Wrecking Ball.’ This time, it was more than a typical “stroll in, lay down solo, get lunch” session. He’s responding to the band and vice-versa. His guitar’s a frickin’ laser slicing across the E Street sound, adding even more urgency to a band that already plays as though its life depends on every note.

It may seem easy to dismiss ‘High Hopes.’ The complaints have already been loud from the Springsteen faithful — “It’s a cover, not a new song! It was already out in 1995! Who is this Morello kid, anyway?! Get offa my lawn!”

Emperor Palpatine said it best: Release your anger. Let go of your preconcieved notions. Listen to the music and hear what is there. It’s one of the most fiery Springsteen tracks of the modern era. If this is what we can expect from the album, there’s plenty of reason for high hopes.

Next: Springsteen's Most Political Songs

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