Bruce Springsteen returns with this nineteenth studio album, his First studio outing in five years. The New Jersey native brings us Western Stars, a journey of thirteen beautifully crafted tracks over four sides on vinyl.
Everybody… The boss is back, look busy! From the opening track, Hitch Hikin’ you are instantly returned to the musical gut punch that is Bruce Springsteen. This album has a warm, welcome home feeling, like a sweet childhood memory. Springsteen’s voice is as soft and comforting as it is gravely and resonating. Switching your emotions from one track to the next.
The title song Western Stars, the fourth track in the offering, opens with a muted acoustic backed with a ghostly slide guitar. The track layers are immaculately entwining as Springsteen’s vocal line dances through them: “Western stars light up the sky…” sings the leader of the E Street Band.
The standout song on the album, for me, is There Goes My Miracle. The “all in” approach of the opening sets the stall out early, with the string arrangement cutting through the mix: “I’m searching for my love” calls The Boss during the first pre-chorus and then comes the infectious chorus. “Look what you’ve done” sings Springsteen in the middle eight, bringing you down only to project you straight back up with a repeat of that chorus. The song ends on a return to the opening lines to remind you that with every sunrise there is sundown.
Hello Sunshine, the lead single of the album, is buried deep within the mix being the penultimate track on the wax, but do not let this placement fool you. The instant hook of the melody and texture of the music pulls the listener into a world of undeniable pain and anguish with a heavy undercurrent of remorse. The mix of major and minor chords in the key of D makes the flow of this cut swim in this listeners ears for hours.
As each track passes from one to the next, they all have their individual stories to tell but it feels that there is an overall message to the album. There is hurt as well as healing, despair but ultimately hope mixed in this baker’s dozen.
With Western Stars Springsteen perfectly blends all his previous sounds; cinematic scores swirled with more of a faint shimmer, his own style of Rock n’ Roll and a heavy dose of Nashville reverberate throughout the tone.
Joe Strummer of The Clash once wrote of Springsteen “Bruce is great… If you don’t agree with that, you’re a pretentious Martian from Venus”. Quite frankly who can argue with that?
By Matt Wand