Stream Springsteen’s “High Hopes” right here, then later in a primetime TV drama, what in the what?


Well, not here, but HERE on

The stream is also available via Stereogum and CBS, the latter of which will build an episode of “The Good Wife” around the songs on the album. Which is how you promote albums these days, assuming you’re not playing halftime at the Super Bowl or the center of some luxury car advertising campaign or professional sport advertising campaign, or getting back together with the old band, or Opening Up about your Heartbreak or your Brave Recovery from Whatever, and so on and on and on.

In earlier times you’d think such artistic compromises would be cardinal sins; hard evidence of a broken spirit and/or moral chaos. But these days….when it comes to getting your work across to the people you do what you gotta do.

Bottom line: The album sounds good in my ears. Not quite the tectonic plate-rumbler of Wrecking Ball, but well above the confused mishmash of Workin’ On a Dream. What we have here is a decade-plus of studio leftovers, stage-enhanced versions of acoustic tunes and a handful of well-chosen cover songs.

Video of the day: Springsteen’s “High Hopes”


By now you probably know: 1. That Bruce Springsteen’s new album, his 18th long-player of original(ish) recordings and compositions, is called High Hopes. 2. That it includes 12 songs, including several cover songs including the title track. 3. Which track has been released online today. 4. Along with this strikingly cool video, which takes the fractured mosaic visual style from the last few videos to new levels of action, imagery and symbolic whiz-bangery. 5. The album will be released on January 14, 2014, two months shy of the 2nd anniversary of Wrecking Ball‘s release date in March, 2012.

What strikes me at first viewing: That Tom Morello is the most (only?) visible band member; That the wah-wah guitar thing that happens about 2/3 of the way into the tune is “Shaft”-ing its way to the tippy-top of my heart; That the stop-motion/repeat-motion thing that happens at the same time, showing Bruce ripping at his acoustic guitar, captures the tension/fire in his performances in a new and striking way.

Check it out here:

New music alert: Jake Bugg’s “Shangri La”



The man is 19 years old but somehow radiates the bitter, sardonic energy of Bringing it all Back Home Dylan and With the Beatles era Fabs.

Just check out the first single (and opening cut) from Shangri La “Slumville Sunrise” and hear how similar Bugg’s internal geography (see also: crumbling industrial cities of northern England) reflects the Beatles’ hot/cool currents of rage and hope:

Slumville Sunrise,nobody cares or looks twice
…Every bruise, every flower/illuminated by the morning.

And the sound: guitars, bass and drums. Often — but not always — in the electric 4-piece format, with Bugg’s adenoidal snarl rocketing above. Produced by Rick Rubin (an indication of the corporate support Bugg earned with his much lower-fi debut Jake Bugg, is just exactly right: Clear recordings of great performances with no/little audible monkeying about.

Still, the anti-Bugg vibe coming from England can’t be ignored. Bugg’s first album topped sales charts in the UK, elevating the artiste from the bruises-and-flowers streets to the flowers-and-more-flowers boulevards of modern stardom. Fancier clothes, hotter girlfriends, you know the drill, and Bugg wasn’t shy about diving in. So grr, and also what’s with the squadrons of mercenary songwriters sharing credit for Bugg’s tunes? Is the kid a corporate-driven alt-culture Monkee? Is he even close to being, you know, legit?

I think he is. If only because I can’t stop listening to Shangri-La. No telling if it’ll stick with me beyond this moment but for now it’s all righteous bruises and flowers in my ears.

Check out Shangri-La on NPR’s First Listen page:

And here’s the video for “Slumville Sunrise.” Yes, the narrative bookends are long, un-fun distractions, but once the music starts it’s a whole other story.

Another rare Springsteen song: ‘Homestead’


Heard originally on Joe Grushecky’s Bruce-produced American Babylon album in the mid-90s, “Homestead” is a Springsteen-Grushecky co-write that could fit easily on any post-“The River” Springsteen album. Grushecky fronted the song on his album, but somewhere along the way they recorded a Springsteen-led version. This is it, as played by Grushecky on his recent E Street Radio guest shot.

You’ll like it.

McCartney’s terrific “New”

Paul McCartney at Frank Sinatra School of Performing Arts Just turn your ear for a moment to the buzz attending Paul McCartney’s latest album. His first collection of originals in six years, titled simply, New, came with the predictable oohs and ahhs. Oh, the Beatle-esqueness of it all. The warmth and steel of his 71-year-old pipes. The grace of his melodies and the unexpected shrieks, whirs and purposeful murk in its electronic japery. But in the absence of the work itself all those promises are at best meaningless — McCartney is a living legend, a hero to generations. Journalists WANT him to succeed, and frankly so do we. Particularly if it means 45-plus minutes of lovely new Paul McCartney music.

So how terrific that New is pretty much exactly that. From the album-opening rocker “Save Us,” the songs are tautly constructed, melodic and – I swear I’m not kidding – lyrically compelling. The intellectual laziness that defines so many of McCartney’s solo songs is nowhere to be found.

(for in-depth McCartney’s life and career with and without the Beatles you might want to check out my 2009 biography, Paul McCartney: A Life)

Instead, we get the engaging obscurities in “Alligator” and, better yet, the prosaic revelations described in the sweet, mid-tempo “On My Way to Work.”   Like for instance, and I just love this for some reason:

“On my work to work I bought a magazine/Inside a pretty girl, liked to waterski/She came from Chichester to study history/She had removed her clothes for the likes of me.”

It’s that bit about waterskiing that knocks me backwards (what a weird detail, and yet exactly what dirty magazines make a point of noting). Next, a brief guitar break turns dark and driving, leading to a final verse where the ka-chunk of the office time clock brings a small vision:

“I could see everything, how we came to be/People come and go, smoking cigarettes/I pick the packets up when the people leave.

Wherein lies one of McCartney’s most valuable traits — his eye for the magic of everyday life and motion. We fancy folk don’t often turn to janitors and nudie magazines for existential philosophy, but this artist sees more than we do. The real payoff, however, comes in the choruses that reveal the narrator’s passing fascinations as a symptom of the intimacy he never found in his own life:

“How could a soul search everywhere/Without knowing what to do?”

So okay, “Everybody Out There” falls a bit short in the lyric department, but the next tune is “Hosanna,” which pits a dark melody and pulsing bass against layers of electronic drone and tape loop shriekery unheard on a Paul song since “The White Album.”

And so it goes pretty much song for song, all with their own intrigue (OMG, the texture of his aged voice when singing, a touch bitterly, about the young Beatles on “Early Days”) and delight. Those perfect melodic fillips; the layers of joy in his stacked harmonies; the irresistible sweetness in the bouncy title track, which is as heavy as helium and as lovely as a summer morning.

Does that make it (yet) another silly love song? Not even. If only for the startling assertion McCartney makes a song earlier in “Early Days”:

“They can’t take it from me if they tried/I lived through those early days/So many times I had to change the pain to laughter/Just to keep from getting crazed.”

It ain’t easy. So float away on “New” right now; consider the expressions on the faces you see and imagine what waits for them when their feet crunch back into the dirt below.