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New Springsteen Album "Western Stars" June 14*

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by FingerPickin'Triumph, Apr 22, 2019.

  1. DavidD

    DavidD Forum Resident

    So what are 'Springsteen's basics'? In terms of an entire album, Springsteen's been routinely coining pretty simplistic lyrics since Born In The USA circa 1984. Consider Cover Me, as an example:

    The times are tough now, just getting tougher
    This old world is rough, it's just getting rougher
    Cover me, come on baby cover me
    Well I'm looking for a lover who will come on in and cover me

    I've literally read grade 11 poems of this calibre.

    I think Einstein said something like, everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

    One can argue that Springsteen had other simple songs from earlier works, like Sherry Darling from off The River in 1980:

    And you can tell her there's a hot sun beating on the black top
    She keeps talking she'll be walking that last block
    And she can take a subway back to the ghetto tonight
    Well I got some beer and the highway's free
    And I got you and baby you've got me
    Hey, hey, hey, what you say, Sherry Darling

    Yet to my ears, a simple song like Sherry Darling presents a more elaborate picture and stirs up a more emotional response than Cover Me, a song that is just too simple for my enjoyment.

    The problem for me is that when Springsteen gets too simple -- as with Cover Me, he often loses his cinematic quality. And it is that cinematic quality that I find most appealing to his work.

    I won't bother to deeply discuss numerous his iconic lyrics which are routinely far more involved than either of these examples, but these more involved lyrics could be no simpler and still convey the beautiful imagery, as per Racing In The Street, circa 1978:

    She sits on the porch of her daddy's house but all her pretty dreams are torn
    She stares off alone into the night with the eyes of one who hates for just being born
    For all the shut down strangers and hot rod angels rumbling through this promised land
    Tonight my baby and me we're gonna ride to the sea and wash these sins off our hands

    All that said, Western Stars is album which works pretty dang well (if not very well!) as an album. I think Moonlight Motel is the pinnacle of his writing on this album, but a simpler song like There Goes My Miracle still fits in with the feel and presentation. I agree with the poster who said that it is the sum 0f the parts that elevates this album. On the whole, I think Western Stars is his best work since Tunnel of Love.
    tms766, J_D__, alan967tiger and 5 others like this.
  2. JoeF.

    JoeF. Forum Resident

    New Jersey, USA
    It's better.

    But I was never that big a fan of Tunnel of Love. I only liked about 5 songs on that album.
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2019
    Mike M likes this.
  3. DavidD

    DavidD Forum Resident

    Curious, but which ~5 would those be?
  4. JoeF.

    JoeF. Forum Resident

    New Jersey, USA
    All That Heaven Will Allow
    Walk Like. Man

    The three singles

    Oh, and Tougher Than the Rest
    ( forgot about that one)

    So six.
  5. The Bishop

    The Bishop Forum Resident

    Dorset, England.
    The more I listen to Western Stars, the better it gets. A perfect album.
  6. NunoBento

    NunoBento Rock 'n' Roll Star

    After a month of repeated listens, "Western Stars", "Stuntman" and "Moonlight Motel" are already 3 of my all time Bruce songs.
  7. windfall

    windfall Forum Resident

    I dunno. It's a pop song. Sometimes you want 'the ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face' and sometimes you want 'I got a girl named Sue, she knows just what to do... I got a girl named Daisy, she almost drives me crazy...'
  8. Dr. Zoom

    Dr. Zoom Forum Resident

    Monmouth County NJ
    Same here. I never got all the raves for TOL. It’s a brilliant concept, but I always found the execution somewhat wanting. I always thought it sounded antiseptic.
    I like WS much more.
  9. Record Rotator

    Record Rotator Forum Resident

    To me, Western Stars is the most enjoyable Springsteen album since Born In The U.S.A.
    "Sundown" is still my favorite song. "The Wayfarer" is probably a close second; love the Glen Campbell-esque strings and horns on this track.
  10. HarvG

    HarvG Forum Resident

    Chicago Suburbs
    Backstreeets.com published an article on 6/17 entitled "Trouble On My Mind":

    Clearly, many of the characters in Western Stars are alone. Either by choice or by circumstance, they have left loved ones or been left by the same. But in "Sundown," could Bruce Springsteen be touching on a different kind of isolation, one that sadly has become all too familiar for him and members of his own family?

    On the surface, "Sundown" seems to be a location, a place with bars and cafes, and where the character is "wishing you were here with me." But perhaps Springsteen also could be referring to a neurological phenomenon known as "sundowning" or "sundown syndrome" that is associated with confusion and restlessness in patients with some forms of dementia.

    "Sundowning isn't a disease, but a group of symptoms that occur at a specific time of the day that may affect people with dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease," according to the Mayo Clinic website, explaining that sundowning behaviors can include "confusion, anxiety, aggression, ignoring directions … pacing or wandering." In most human circadian rhythms, sunset naturally triggers melatonin production as the body prepares for sleep. In individuals with dementia, however, research shows that melatonin production may be decreased, possibly leading to sundowning behaviors. The night's fading light can also introduce different, confusing shadows for those affected.

    There is a lot of information available online about sundown syndrome and how to manage symptoms and mitigate triggers, but even knowing a little about the phenomenon provides another lens through which to view Springsteen's song. Our character finds himself in Sundown, which "ain't the kind of place you want to be on your own" and where "all I've got's trouble on my mind." There are references to time being skewed, from the sense of "a hundred years since you've been near to me" to the feeling of "long, hot, endless days and cold nights all alone. The character feels isolated "here in lonely town" and may even be aware of his altered state, pointing out, "that little voice in my head's all that keeps me from sinking down." (Medical experts say patients likely understand that their behavior is out of the ordinary.)

    Springsteen began speaking extensively onstage about his mother's struggle with Alzheimer's during the Springsteen on Broadway run. He also has spoken publicly about his late father-in-law's struggle with the disease, and in his Born to Run autobiography he recounted his father's depression and mental illness. But perhaps another reason that Bruce may have wanted to address this kind of personal isolation on Western Stars has to do with one of the album's major influences: Glen Campbell.

    Bruce already has stated on record that the music on Western Stars was greatly inspired by the work of the multiple Grammy award-winner and Country Music Hall of Fame inductee. Springsteen also was interviewed in the 2014 documentary Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me, which chronicled some of Campbell's last years before his death in 2017 and offered an intimate look at how Campbell and his loved ones lived with his having Alzheimer's.

    "Sundown" features a guitar line that sounds like it could've been played by Campbell himself. The lyrical references to "trouble on my mind" and "the county line" also could be interpreted as bittersweet nods to two of Campbell's biggest hits: "Gentle on My Mind" and "Wichita Lineman."

    "My father-in-law passed away from Alzheimer's," Bruce says in I'll Be Me. "So I've seen it in every stage from that first day when suddenly somebody looks at something and goes, 'What's this?' And it's a lock.... And then to where it snows overnight, and: 'How did that get here? What is that?'"

    Springsteen talked about his mother's progression with Alzheimer's during his Springsteen on Broadway run. In the performance recorded and filmed for posterity, Bruce shared that Adele Springsteen, who was 93 at the time, had been battling the disease for seven years.

    So if Western Stars' "Sundown" does allude to the medical phenomenon of sundowning, perhaps it's only fitting it's one of the more danceable tracks on this brilliant album. "Dancing and that desire and need to dance is something that, it hasn't left her," Bruce said on Broadway. "It remains an essential, primal part of who she is. It's beyond language. It's more powerful than memory. And when she comes in the door, we make sure there's music on. She wants to dance, you know? These things were the embodiment of my mother. They were her heart. She carried on and she carries on as if they never, never deserted her."

    - June 17, 2019 - Nancy Calaway reporting
    Adam9, moonshiner, RSteven and 11 others like this.
  11. Record Rotator

    Record Rotator Forum Resident

    Thanks! This adds further depth to my favorite song off Western Stars.
  12. DavidD

    DavidD Forum Resident

    Among fans, it seems 'execution' is THE divisive element on most all Springsteen albums -- his chosen vocal sound or annunciation, the depth of recording, or his choice of band or backing arrangements.

    The beauty of art is we don't need to agree to appreciate it. Springsteen is indelibly in my music-memory, and I could never turn my back on anything he puts out, even if I later choose to never listen to it. He's had, and continues to have, a remarkable life. His genius has created more jobs and happiness than a president!

    By the way, I'd say it is the sheer volume of self-honesty and introspection on Tunnel that makes it so rave-worthy and unique within the entire Springsteen canon. :righton:

    NB. I wasn't saying WS was better or worse than Tunnel, but in simple terms of enjoyment, I put them on an equal footing.
  13. Rhinojack

    Rhinojack Forum Resident

    Harlingen, Texas
    Has anyone received the translucent blue smoke vinyl version that JPC.de was exclusively selling? I ordered one but received the light blue opaque version readily available in the US. There is also a darker blue version from the UK Bruce Springsteen site.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
  14. sunking101

    sunking101 Forum Resident

    Yorkshire, England
    It happened in the Egypt Station thread too but I'm always wary when people say that an artist's latest release is their best, or one of their best ever. I'll wait a year or two and see how Western Stars sets its stall out in my Bruce rotation.

    I will say that it's one of his best since Tunnel Of Love but it certainly doesn't hang with his classic albums (Born To Run, Darkness, The River, Born In The USA) and it's not as good as Tunnel Of Love. I can state these things quite clearly even at this point. However it's far better than expected and a real return to form. I don't think any of us could have anticipated Bruce would drop an album of this quality at this stage in his career.
    Dr. Zoom and DEAN OF ROCK like this.
  15. Dr. Zoom

    Dr. Zoom Forum Resident

    Monmouth County NJ
    I was expecting to not like WS. I thought it was going to be WOAD 2. While there are a couple of WOAD-like songs (Miracle and Sundown), it's a very different sounding record, and it works. I guess it just shows that you have to approach things with an open mind. Time is needed for a full evaluation, but my guess is that legacy-wise, it will ultimately be viewed as one of his stronger records.
  16. Record Rotator

    Record Rotator Forum Resident

    I tuned out around Working On A Dream and never really got around to listening to this album (except superficially), but if "Sundown" is anything like it, I'm going to listen to it asap!
    RSteven and OptimisticGoat like this.
  17. Rockford & Roll

    Rockford & Roll Forum Resident

    Midway, KY
    I do hear some Working On A Dream but also Magic and The Rising. I think he pulled all of those experiments and false starts together and maintained it over the entire Western Stars record.
    DavidD and The Bishop like this.
  18. The Panda

    The Panda Forum Mutant

    Marple, PA, USA
    I'd listen to this any day of the week over Tunnel of Love
  19. Dr. Zoom

    Dr. Zoom Forum Resident

    Monmouth County NJ
    To me, WS's main root systems are TOL, D&D, and WOAD
    johnny 99 likes this.
  20. JoeF.

    JoeF. Forum Resident

    New Jersey, USA
    Though I probably got into Western Stars quicker than you, I too was not expecting much when it was first announced. Most of my posts on various Springsteen threads here --over the past couple of years--have been quite negative towards his music and his fans,some of whom act as though the man walks on water, and I always mentioned that Magic was the last thing he did that I really liked.
    Well Western Stars blows Magic out of the water. There's a depth to this album that reveals itself with each listen and even though (it appears from scraps of info we've gotten) the album was recorded over several years, it's concept holds together well and the songs all seem to reference each other and repeat similar lines -- a variation of "Woke up this morning" opens two songs, and there are references to the various times of the day--sunshine, sunset, sundown, moonlight--all over the album.

    It's not a flawless album--"Sleepy Joe's Cafe" just doesn't belong here and "Somewhere North of Nashville" doesn't fit; it sounds like a sketch for another album and generally deviates from the rest of the tracks musically---but few albums , by any artist, are flawless. Also, on some tracks, I wish the twangy guitar was a bit more upfront.

    But Western Stars is an album that lingers-- long after it ends, it's nudging you to give it another spin.

    That's the mark of a great album.
  21. DavidD

    DavidD Forum Resident

    Good thing I’m no rock critic since there are a lot of Tunnel Of Love non-fans. o_O

    PS. I like Sleepy Joe’s Cafe — it grew on me :agree:
  22. JoeF.

    JoeF. Forum Resident

    New Jersey, USA
    Agreed, but there are direct and indirect references to other albums going all the way back to Darkness on the Edge of Town.
    Try to convince me that "Stones" is not reminiscent of that album's title track or that "Drive Fast (The Stuntman)" is not-literally- a direct descendant of "Racing in the Streets."

    You can't.
  23. walrus

    walrus Forum Resident

    Minneapolis, MN
    I wish I was hearing what you all seem to be hearing with WS. It's a bit of a chore at 50 minutes of same-y sounding songs, and I'll never shake my initial feeling that "Sleepy Joe's Cafe" reminded me of Jimmy Buffett. Maybe you need to have some kind of affinity for easy-listening/old country/Glen Campbell kind of stuff to get it. I mean, the album isn't bad, it just isn't memorable to me either.
    hardknox likes this.
  24. The Panda

    The Panda Forum Mutant

    Marple, PA, USA
    Really? I feel like leper here for disliking Tunnel (Killer song tho--one of his best)--I still feel enormously let down by this album.
    Many people here talk about that album like it was a life changing thing for them.
    OptimisticGoat, JoeF. and Mike M like this.
  25. JoeF.

    JoeF. Forum Resident

    New Jersey, USA
    This makes a lot of sense.
    HarvG likes this.

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