Bruce Springsteen is pulling out all the stops to make his full-length film a success, writes ADRIAN THRILLS

Bruce Springsteen: Western Stars— Songs From The Film (Columbia)

Rating:

Verdict: Stylish big screen portrait

We are now in an era of the pop album as an extended franchise, rather than simply a stand-alone release.

Oxford band Foals today unveil the second instalment of their Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost LP (see below), while Sting’s My Songs is repackaged next month as a double album to form the basis of his forthcoming Las Vegas residency.

Another getting in on the act is Bruce Springsteen, who has turned new album Western Stars into a full-length film with its own soundtrack. He’s pulling out all the stops to make it a success, too.

Bruce certainly reaches for the skies on a film made with long-term collaborator Thom Zimny. The project frames the singer in an intimate setting, in stark contrast with his reputation as a stadium rock god

Bruce certainly reaches for the skies on a film made with long-term collaborator Thom Zimny. The project frames the singer in an intimate setting, in stark contrast with his reputation as a stadium rock god

Famously averse to hyperbole — he once tore down his own publicity posters outside Hammersmith Odeon — he has been avidly promoting this latest venture.

The past week saw him appear on The Graham Norton Show and attend two advance screenings in London. 

And, as he told cinemagoers, his move to the big screen is part of the stock-taking that comes with turning 70, as he did last month.

It’s a process that has also included an autobiography and last year’s Broadway residency.

‘I’m getting to that age where you’re summing up a lot of what you’ve learned,’ he said during a live Q&A. 

Famously averse to hyperbole ¿ he once tore down his own publicity posters outside Hammersmith Odeon ¿ he has been avidly promoting this latest venture

Famously averse to hyperbole — he once tore down his own publicity posters outside Hammersmith Odeon — he has been avidly promoting this latest venture

‘Writing a book was the first chapter. The play came out of the book and this [the film] came out of the play. I’ve had a good run over the past five years as far as feeling inspired goes. I’ve done things I’ve never done before. I feel lucky for that . . . because you never know.

‘I’m a man of many talents,’ he went on. ‘I write books and Broadway plays. Now I’m making movies. I’m going to try being an astronaut next,’ he joked. At least I think he was joking.

Bruce certainly reaches for the skies on a film made with long-term collaborator Thom Zimny. The project frames the singer in an intimate setting, in stark contrast with his reputation as a stadium rock god.

Backed by a band and full orchestra, and performing in a converted barn in the grounds of his New Jersey home, he sings the original album tracks in chronological order, adding a commanding cover of Glen Campbell’s Rhinestone Cowboy to finish — ‘a tip of the hat to a lot of my inspiration’.

The film isn’t a straight performance picture, with the live takes interspersed with Super 8 footage from Bruce’s childhood and a playful clip from his honeymoon.

The album’s character-driven story-songs are inspired largely by the American West, so we are shown lots of Breaking Bad- style desert scenes, with Bruce looking moody behind the wheel of his pick-up truck. 

The past week saw him appear on The Graham Norton Show (above) and attend two advance screenings in London

The past week saw him appear on The Graham Norton Show (above) and attend two advance screenings in London

His scripted voiceover gives Western Stars a loose narrative thread and the film opens with an explanation of how his songwriting was inspired by the two contrasting sides of the American character.

‘One is transient, restless, solitary,’ he says. ‘The other is collective and communal in its search for family, deep roots and a home for the heart to reside.’

The original album — a lush affair influenced by songwriters such as Burt Bacharach and Jimmy Webb — was a skilful homage. The cinematic update, boosted by the spontaneity of live performance and the acoustic properties of Bruce’s cavernous barn, feels like a proper Springsteen record.

The presence of his wife Patti Scialfa helps. 

Springsteen admits it was ‘a big mistake’ not to utilise Patti on the original album and her fresh vocal arrangements add a new dimension to Sundown and Stones, the latter an astonishing performance featuring the husband and wife duo together on the microphone.

Elsewhere, Tucson Train is looser and richer while The Wayfarer is lifted by improvised piano. 

Chasin’ Wild Horses is introduced with a telling aside from a singer once born to run.

As he says: ‘You can run away for a while, but you can’t run away forever,’ reiterating the emotional punch packed by this engaging director’s cut.

Springsteen turned Western Stars into a film because he wanted to promote it, but didn’t want to go on the road with an orchestra. ‘It’s an unusual piece of music,’ he admits. And it is.

He plans to use his regular group, The E Street Band, for his next album and tour. 

‘I’ve got to go back to the day job,’ he says. ‘You have to pay the bills.’

The Western Stars soundtrack album is out next week. The film is on general release from October 28.

New releases

Elbow: Giants Of All Sizes (Polydor)

Elbow: Giants Of All Sizes (Polydor)

Foals: Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part Two (Transgressive)

Foals: Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part Two (Transgressive)

DJ Spoony: Garage Classical (Since ¿93)

DJ Spoony: Garage Classical (Since ’93)

Elbow: Giants Of All Sizes (Polydor)

Elbow have replaced their bruised but benevolent charm with a darker mood that reflects loss — singer Guy Garvey’s father died while it was being made — and a wider sense of unease. 

The change is at the expense of their usual melodic uplift, though this resurfaces on Weightless, about Garvey’s dad; and On Deronda Road, which extols the joys of a bus ride with your child.

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Foals: Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part Two (Transgressive)

Instalment two of the Oxford quartet’s latest album frames the band’s rockier side, but feels untidy and overbearing. 

Its scattergun approach sees cinematic instrumentals rub shoulders with chaotic stomps like The Runner and the bluesy Like Lightning. 

Only Dreaming Of harks back to the funkier Foals of old. Part One gained a well-merited Mercury nod, but this is an anticlimax.

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DJ Spoony: Garage Classical (Since ’93)

The glitchy electronics of garage music lend themselves well to the orchestral treatment. 

Working with radio presenter Spoony, conductor Katie Chatburn superbly revamps the hits Gotta Get Thru This, Fill Me In and 21 Seconds. 

Lily Allen supplies a lovely vocal on Sweet Like Chocolate and Emeli Sande sings Crazy Love.

Rating:

AT

Springsteen pulls out all the stops to make his film a success, writes ADRIAN THRILLS

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