Bruce Springsteen Western Stars
Film in cinemas October 28; Soundtrack album, Columbia, out Friday
For decades, Bruce Springsteen gave us albums and tours. Then, when he turned 67, something clearly changed. It was as if one of his children had dared him to see how many art forms he could try before he was 70.
Since 2016 he’s published a best-selling autobiography, Born To Run. He’s done a one-man show that ran for more than a year on Broadway before landing on Netflix. He’s lent his back catalogue to a modest British film, Blinded By The Light.
And now he’s made a movie of his own, featuring an intimate performance of the album Western Stars, which came out in June.
Since 2016 Bruce Springsteen’s published an autobiography. He’s done a one-man show on Broadway before landing on Netflix. And now he’s made a movie of his own
Springsteen On Broadway worked because it mixed classic songs with funny stories about his early life. Western Stars is not like that. Containing barely a single joke, it’s a concert film that turns into a therapy session.
‘In this life,’ Springsteen declares, ‘nobody gets away unhurt.’ It’s The Boss at his bleakest.
The message aligns with his grittier albums – Nebraska, The Ghost Of Tom Joad – but this time the pill comes with some sugar. Springsteen let his co-director, Thom Zimny, go through his home movies, so there’s charming footage ranging from his parents’ wedding in the Forties to his own honeymoon with Patti Scialfa in 1991.
‘Weddings, parties – ritual, ritual, ritual,’ Springsteen said at a screening in London last weekend. ‘The things that keep our heads above water.’
The music is all sweetness and darkness. Western Stars is melodic folk-pop, tipping its cowboy hat to Jimmy Webb and Glen Campbell. Here, to offset the desolate voiceover, the songs come drenched in horns, strings and gospel harmonies.
Springsteen plays them in a 19th-century barn at his New Jersey home. Some rock stars have yachts; others have barns big enough to contain an orchestra, a band, nine cameramen, an invited audience and a well-stocked bar.
Between these old wooden walls the songs grow warmer and deeper. A ballad called Stones, repetitive on record, becomes a thing of many layers as Patti and Bruce come together to sing about the moments in a long-lasting marriage when honesty wavers.
The effect is deliciously haunting.
You come away liking the album more, understanding it better – and really hoping the barn is on Airbnb.
The Divine Comedy
O2 Academy, Oxford
Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy writes good tunes and even better jokes. There may be nobody else alive who could pull off a concept album called Office Politics.
On tour he plays nearly all of it. The chuckles just keep on coming, whether the material is deeply lovable (Norman And Norma) or simply laughable (The Synthesiser Service Centre Super Summer Sale).
Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy writes good tunes and even better jokes. There may be nobody else alive who could pull off a concept album called Office Politics
One minute Hannon is Noël Coward, the next he’s Kurt Weill. Then, on A Lady Of A Certain Age, he’s Peter Sarstedt. Best of all, on To The Rescue, he’s Scott Walker.
THIS WEEK’S CD RELEASES
By Adam Woods
Elbow Giants Of All Sizes Out now
There is a lot of human comfort to be found in this stormy and reflective album. If the backdrop to these songs is heavy – the demise of close friends, Brexit, a death on a railway line – Guy Garvey’s treatment is painstakingly compassionate, while the band variously demonstrate their oomph, subtlety and invention
Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds Ghosteen Out now
This double album of achingly heartfelt songs wreathed in synthesisers, strings, choirs and spiritual imagery, feels like a feverish but oddly calming foray into an imagined afterlife, seemingly inspired by the loss of Cave’s son Arthur. He could sing a shopping list and appear profound
Neil Young & Crazy Horse Colorado Out Friday
Young is 73 now and Colorado’s strongest moments are those where the band cuts loose – the prowling jam of Milky Way or the seething Help Me Lose My Mind – but the Horse are wasted on limp ditties such as Olden Days or trite anthem Rainbow Of Colors
James Blunt Once Upon A Mind Out Friday
Blunt has minted a shiny pop formula of impassioned ballads and bright-eyed strum-alongs. This proceeds along proven paths, cutting Cold and Halfway from the latter cloth and Monsters and Stop The Clock from the former. How It Feels To Be Alive, with its dramatic imagery and crashing piano chords, is the closest thing to a mould-breaker