Top critical review
4 people found this helpful
Dreadful, water-treading, Springsteen-by-numbers
on 6 June 2014
Is this what Record Store's about then; sweeping together a bunch of second-rate leftovers and packaging them together as some kind of `exclusive'? The fact that these tracks weren't even good enough for High Hopes, which was itself a collection of outtakes, speaks volumes. Springsteen has been an idol of mine since childhood (I'm now 33) and criticism of him doesn't come naturally at all, but I found listening to American Beauty to be a thoroughly disheartening experience. The first three tracks sound like retreads of existing songs - especially the title track, which is musically indistinguishable from 'Frankie Fell in Love' off High Hopes (as Red on Black rightly points out in his review). Mary Mary sounds like a half-baked version of something off Working On A Dream to me, I can't place it - less offensive but pretty nondescript and with a fairly futile string section; it sounds unfinished. The third track, Hurry Up Sundown, is the real nadir; I can't even make it through a full three minutes - dreary, glossy, pumped-up, totally generic and self-consciously 'current'-sounding corporate pop-rock, with Springsteen's vocals subjected to some weird equalising treatment (particularly terrible backing vocals too; as with Mary Mary). Listening to these first three songs provoked in me a host of emotions that I wouldn't normally associate with listening to Springsteen: boredom, frustration, embarrassment. The last song, Hey Blue Eyes, is the only half-decent thing here, a slow, shuffling, (relatively) stripped-back rumination on Iraq, although I'm now wondering whether it's actually all that great or just sounds good compared to the dirge that precedes it: at least it sounds like he tried... but what the hell is going on with the background wailing three minutes in - as with Magic, Working On A Dream, Wrecking Ball, High Hopes: why do all the rough edges have to be polished away and everything be so blown up and embellished with lachrymose studio noodling? For people to give this five stars is a bloody joke. Springsteen needs to take a few years off, find a new producer and come back with something vital to say. Otherwise he risks cheapening a legacy that until recently felt impervious.