High Hopes is a patchwork of Bruce Springsteen's loose scraps of Americana, like that stars-and-stripes flag that disenfranchised veterans on The Simpsons stitch together out of old clothes.
The title track opens with a skiffling Bo Diddley beat that explodes into a singalong zydeco chorus. American Skin (41 Shots), written about the police shooting of Amadou Diallo, gains bonus resonance post-Trayvon Martin. There is, no joke, a Tom Waitsian cover of Suicide's Dream Baby Dream.
If your beef with the E Street Band is that they don't have enough guitar solos that sound like an old 14.4k modem crapping out, well... enter Tom Morello, whose trick bag of effects pedals gives Springsteen and Co. the jittery relevance they need to connect with a modern audience.
There's not much new here, but Springsteen has always traded on a maudlin permanent nostalgia that only works because it's so fucking earnest that it blasts through our attempts to be cynical about it.
Top track: American Skin (41 Shots)