Review: ‘Western Stars’ by Bruce Springsteen

  • ‘Western Stars’ is a stunning album that takes a cool, country direction
  • Easily his best work in years

“Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuce!”

When I was younger, I used to think crowds booed Springsteen. I used to think he was overrated, too. Well we were all young and naive once.

Then when I went to university, I met this guy, Adam, who was a Springsteen superfan. I had never seen anything like it. Any item of trivia, any lyric, any melody – he knew it. And, as an uninitiated twerp, it frustrated the absolute hell out of me.

One day, Adam broke my resolve. I went out and bought a CD (yes, we are talking 2010, when those things still existed) of his greatest hits. I knew them, I tolerated them, I tapped my foot a time or two.

And I did this again. And again. And again. And by the end of the week, I had been converted.

Now look – I am a late bloomer (in so many aspects, unfortunately) so it took me a while. And perhaps I was just being a contrarian for the sheer hell of it. But ever since Adam convinced me to listen to The Boss, I have loved him ever since. (Bruce, not Adam so much.)

And this latest release, ‘Western Stars’, has me in love all over again.

Best solo work in years

Springsteen does well in two modes: high-octane, or songwriter. With Bruce, it’s a smash in the face, or a sweet embrace. This is the Springsteen I like – a man who can serenade you with Thunder Road one minute, then blast The Ghost of Tom Joad the next.

But on Western Stars, Springsteen takes a lower gear all the way through – and that is by no means a bad thing. This is Springsteen’s country album, and the hints of Glen Campbell, Scott Walker, Burt Bacharach and more are evident from the first note.

It is a wistful, nostalgic look at characters we all know and love, but the strength of the lyrics tell completely different stories to the ones we have heard. Backed by excellent orchestration, and a pretty strong vocal performance from Springsteen (he is 70 years old!), you’ve got a winner.

I won’t write any more (you can listen to me blabber on about it, after all) but just know this is a fantastic album, among the best Springsteen has ever done, and a likely contender for album of the year.