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Bruce Springsteen - Record Store Day EP
on 26 April 2014
"American Beauty" is a brand new EP that has been released by the Boss to coincide with Record Store Day and presents the listener with four "new" songs. Perhaps the term "unreleased songs" makes more sense than "new" since this falls into that scouring of the vaults approach which Springsteen took in terms of this January's full album "High Hopes". Indeed all the songs present on this EP were in the running for that release even though some go back to the earlier "Magic" Sessions
So what of the songs? The title track is clearly a close relative of the "High Hopes" anthem "Frankie fell in Love". It is a sort of "draft" for the song with the same melody but different lyrics. If you love "Frankie" then this track will sail your boat, however it is largely a standard Springsteen rocker and one of those songs that may not be subject to regular inclusion in the live act. Much better is the acoustic "Mary Mary" a charming song with an understated string backing and firm vocals from Springsteen. "Hurry up Sundown" is one of those "wall of sound" productions that is aimed at the onset of summer and the celebration of the working man. As a piece of power pop it is fine but by no means a Springsteen classic. "Hey Blue Eyes" alternatively is head and shoulders above the other EP tracks and is further evidence of Springsteen's continual penchant for holding back great songs. Its purpose is to launch a political pot shot at the Bush era and in particular what Springsteen describes as "a shadow we as a country have yet to emerge from", namely the naked abuse of power that characterised the scandal of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The song is a slow inditement of this dark chapter where Springsteen bitterly concludes with the lyric "Upstairs the landlord is dining here with his criminal friends/Don't worry, they'll have the bags packed and be long gone before the real f***ing begins". This is strong stuff and in this reviewers humble opinion it is better than anything on "High Hopes".
Overall the prospect of any music from the Springsteen "well" is always worth exploring and "American Beauty" will generally please completists with its a two pound price tag. It is Springsteen in a relatively high gear but not really straining the engine. Ultimately there is nothing revelatory to be found here yet the pluses outweigh the minuses and as an outtakes EP this is a genuinely solid set.