Saturday, August 24, 2019

Album Review - Western Stars

Well, it took a while, but I've finally gotten around to giving Western Stars, Bruce's latest, a proper listen.  Although, I have a feeling that it will take many more listens to fully digest this album.

Western Stars may perhaps be one of the more complicated albums Springsteen has released over the last 20 years.  It doesn't have the pure anger of Wrecking Ball, the hopefulness of Working on a Dream, or the slapdashed appearance of High Hopes.  With Western Stars, Springsteen is exploring the emotions he felt during his self-described "rough 60s". 

Here, Springsteen sounds older and more pained than he ever has - his emotions divorced from the politics of the time.  The songs are often repetitive - many ending with the narrator in the same place as he began.  While four singles were released, there's no bombastic album "pillar" or "rocker"; strings and pianos are relied on over rollicking guitar riffs and banging drums (in fact, the first two singles are tucked away in the back of the album). 

There are moments of surprise (Dave Sancious on "The Wayfarer"), moments of silliness ("Sleepy Joe's Cafe" is definitely the "Queen of the Supermarket of this album"), and moments of familiarity ("Drive Fast" being an echo of "The Wrestler").  But, this is truly an album where the whole is more the the sum of its parts.  It is an album for the lonely, which makes it that much more appropriate that there was no tour to promote it.  Western Stars may be best listened to on the fourth day of a long road trip. 

I tentatively give this 3.5 out of 5 western stars.  It is not an album that I am ready to connect with emotionally, but it is an absolutely strong and unexpected output from our boy as he approaches 70 years old. 

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