Bruce Springsteen
Western Stars


3.5
great

Review

by AugustWest1990 USER (42 Reviews)
June 17th, 2019 | 34 replies


Release Date: 06/14/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A solid and promising return to form for The Boss.

It seems like every Bruce Springsteen album arrives on a crest of a hype bolstered by the hyperbolic statement "This is his best album since [insert pre-1990s' work here]." 2009's "Working on a Dream," for example, was greeted as a beautiful foray into 1960s' pop, and is now universally derided as his absolute worst album. The same fate befell 2012's "Wrecking Ball," as well as the slapdash outtakes record that was 2014's "High Hopes."

His latest effort, "Western Stars," has been met with similar acclaim, and I have to admit I tried to muffle my cautious optimism, despite three solid first singles ("Hello Sunshine," "There Goes My Miracle," and "Tuscon Train," all of which are among the album's better tracks). Even as more and more reviews piled in throwing the album praise, I still went in low expectations.

It is accurate that this is Springsteen's best album since 2007's "Magic"; that being said, that doesn't mean it's nearly as great as that record was. While the overall song quality is light years beyond "Working on a Dream," and the album as a whole a more cohesive and thematically consistent effort than "High Hopes," it still doesn't quite reach the lofty heights as his best work.

Still, when "Western Stars" is good, it's really good. The album's very best songs have Bruce successfully returning the piercing, vivid character studies whose surroundings, situations, and scars - both physically and spiritually - come to life in a cinematic fashion. These include the 'past his prime' actor of the title song and the wounded but persistent troubadour of "The Stuntman," both classic flawed Springsteen protagonists that earn a seat at the table with the ghost of Tom Joad and highway patrolman Joe Roberts.

What weighs the album down are some of the more forgettable tracks, such as the achingly redundant opener "Hitch Hikin'" and the godawful ballad, "Stones," which boasts one of the worst metaphors Bruce has ever used: "I woke up this morning, with stones in my mouth." Is that why your diction has always been spotty, Bruce. "Smoky Joe's Cafe" feels like a watered down version of much better songs, and "Chasin' Wild Horses" is about one 'down and out' dirge too many. Still, that leaves over half an album's worth of really solid material, and I haven't even gotten to the closer, the haunting "Moonlight Motel"; this is probably the first true masterpiece Bruce has written since "Long Walk Home." Few writers can portray loneliness and regret in such an affecting and empathetic manner as Bruce can, and he does so again with this heart breaker of a ballad.

Sonically, the album boasts a sweeping, grand sound, with lots of lush strings and triumphant horns coming in midway through each song. While it gets somewhat one-note after awhile, the arrangements are all well done and not overly bombastic, which was one of the primary problems with the similar sound he went for on "Working on a Dream." It also gives the album its own identity in Springsteen's canon, which is more than you can say for his last three records.

"Western Stars" may not be a grand slam, but it's a very solid effort that definitely represents a sort of return to form, and gives fans hope that, if he builds off the qualities of the album's better songs, he may have one more truly classic record to give us.



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user ratings (77)
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
foxblood
June 17th 2019


10168 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

yay, I've been waiting for a review. Great album, his best in a long time. this deserves best new music but it won't get it, that's usually reserved for crappy indie like Jai Paul and The National

DoofDoof
June 17th 2019


6315 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

It ain't exactly 'The River' though

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
June 17th 2019


1050 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

wrecking ball is a great album



high hopes is half great



working on a dream sucks, yeah, but idk if i'd say it's worse than human touch



good review though. still need to listen to this, i was going to review but now i don't have to thank to you.

zakalwe
June 17th 2019


29118 Comments


Hitting the open road on a gritty trail of Americana, loss, love, the past and an uncertain future.

aoty for me

DoofDoof
June 17th 2019


6315 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

first four songs and the especially the last two are good stuff



coming out the same week as my aoty and probably the best 'new' album I've heard since The National's 'Trouble Will Find Me' in 2013 was just a tough break for Bruce

zakalwe
June 17th 2019


29118 Comments


Stones is bloody great un’all.

I’ll take this over three quarters of the usual bilge released. Love it.

DoofDoof
June 17th 2019


6315 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

If you've listened to a lot of Springsteen this album does sound like a lot of Springsteen with a little Bacharach/silver screen backing, if it gets some nostalgia working for it...can see it climbing some more. The ingredients are there but...it's a tiny bit snoozy. Especially in the middle.

zakalwe
June 17th 2019


29118 Comments


It’s all charming though. It does a job. Hello Sunshine is a fucking classic tune.

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
June 17th 2019


8743 Comments


Could not stand the songs I’ve heard from this, he’s never much been for me tho

Lmfao at calling Jai Paul ‘crappy indie’ ya friggin boomer

Digging: Liturgy - H.A.Q.Q.

DoofDoof
June 17th 2019


6315 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Zak - be interesting what you make of 'Drive All Night' and 'Wreck on the Highway' off 'The River', think you'll find them too eighties.

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
June 17th 2019


8743 Comments


I love The River, coincidentally

zakalwe
June 17th 2019


29118 Comments


Funnily enough I was listening to Low-Life (an all time fave) in the car earlier while wearing ray-bans in the glorious sunshine and as I pulled up to some traffic lights I caught a glimpse of myself and thought fucking have a word with yourself you absolute cunt it’s not 1987.

foxblood
June 17th 2019


10168 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

wrecking ball was pretty good, this is definitely better though. it's obvs not the river, but at his age this is very impressive



I'd have to be born 40 years earlier to be a boomer, calling everyone a boomer is a stale meme at this point and I just think that album is junk. not that being a millennial is really that much better tho

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
June 17th 2019


8743 Comments


I was just joshin around anyways
All generations are bad lol

foxblood
June 17th 2019


10168 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

true, it's like they are all competing to be the worst. this young generation unironically listens to all these 'lil' mumblers though so they win

foxblood
June 17th 2019


10168 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

the orchestration on this album is great, I love the mixture of cowboy western sounding twangy guitar and vox with the lush accompaniment, I can't say I've heard anything exactly like it. I hope he continues to do more with this style, at his age the gruff western singing is more appropriate, a little bit like later johnny cash in that sense.

JoeTex
June 17th 2019


1006 Comments


good to see the boss is back

Lucman
June 17th 2019


3512 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Album's pure class. Excellent review.

Digging: Origami Angel - Somewhere City

Sunnyvale
June 17th 2019


1233 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Album slays, I had a good feeling going into this one and it greatly exceeded even those expectations. A few missteps but for the most part this is wonderful. Exciting to have great new music from The Boss, gonna be spinning this quite a bit all summer.

Ryus
June 18th 2019


17986 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

the "epic" nature of this feels a little contrived to me tbh



its so glossy and grandiose in a way that doesnt really suit the boss imo, i know its supposed to be cinematic and all but it feels kinda empty



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