The age of hybrid music forms persistently signals that it is time to stop stuffing music into folders and start enjoying listening unconditionally. In that sense, it would be unrealistic to expect from one rock and roll thunder-exponent to deliver another “Born to Run”, now that he has reached the point in his life when he no longer has to prove himself, not even to himself.
Bruce Springsteen has left noisy and wild Boss there where he really belongs (we talk here about other days and other ‘feelzone’ for every injustice) and now he approaches some of his role models in a place where the experience of a drifter who won a battle with his demons begins to reach the edge of those desires that he never dared to wish for in the awkwardness of youthful days. All the travelers of the Springsteen’s past met at one big table, and that big table is the space of a “Western Stars” album.
It is not about getting old, but getting to that time of life circle where people might know more. That’s why this album sounds exactly the way the author wanted it, not the way we all expected. It’s melodic, memorable, fulfilling, festive and powerful, just as the dignified ones imagine their retirement days, without having the opportunity to picture it for us. He went through everything that life can bring him, but he still walks, that lyric man incarnated in his songs. Sometimes helpless, insecure, but finding ways to avoid giving up from life. Bruce guides him through each of the songs gently and solemnly, with bell-like parades discreet but not completely invisible. On the stretch between basic and lavish, the sound layer has a soothing structure of restlessness that calmed itself. Guitars are ubiquitous, but the dominance is sometimes transferred to the vocals, or the brass section, or keyboards, or a deep sense of sublime moments he sings about.
Rock and roll didn’t die on this album; it only slightly adapted its structure to the well-established paths of self-awareness inside the best we can get from Bruce at any given moment. And that’s enough to make “Western Stars” one of the best albums this year, and certainly Springsteen’s best album since 2007.