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Album Review: Bruce Springsteen's 'High Hopes'
Credit: Columbia Records

Album Review: Bruce Springsteen's 'High Hopes'

Does he make a cohesive album out of odds and sods?

For Bruce Springsteen fans— and I am an unabashed, unapologetic one— dropping the needle on a new album is a moment full of excitement, hopeful expectation, and not a small amount of anxiety. For longtime fans, we have a lot— perhaps too much— invested in Springsteen because we know how good his music can make us feel and the deliverance it can provide at its peak.

With “High Hopes,” out officially Jan. 14, but streaming on now, fans didn’t know quite what to expect since the album is a mix of three covers, some already familiar songs newly recorded with Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello, and a handful of never released tunes.

Such an odds-and-sods collection can be just an excuse to dump old material, but here, Springsteen has created an album that, surprisingly, hangs together pretty well (despite a few bumpy transitions such as from “American Skin” into “Just Like Fire Would”). Springsteen has written about dashed hopes and disappointments his entire career, so bringing together a number of songs on the topic  that span more than a decade doesn’t provide any major conceptual challenge.

Produced largely by “Wrecking Ball’s” Ron Aniello, “High Hopes” marks the first time Springsteen has recorded a studio album while he was on tour and the result is an energy that leaps out from much of the material, including the title track. Plus, he’s excited as a puppy with a new pal over the freshness he feels Morello, who filled in for Steven Van Zandt on the Australian leg last year, brings to the band. Even if you don’t agree with his assessment of Morello, who plays on eight tracks here, there’s no denying the pep Morello adds to Springsteen’s already damn peppy step.

Not every album has to be a masterpiece —and this is not one— but nor should it be discounted as a placeholder or a throwaway. Instead, it’s as Springsteen called it in his own words, a bit of an “anomaly.” For hardcore fans, you’ll hear traces of previously recorded songs in most of these and part of the fun is figuring out where you would have sequenced them on past albums.

As Springsteen showed on 1998’s “Tracks,” the excellent 4-CD box set of songs that didn’t make earlier albums, a tune doesn’t always get cut because it’s bad—most of the tracks here are far above average—they just needed to wait a little longer for their time in the spotlight.

“High Hopes” doesn’t bring the rush of a new album full of a batch of recently-birthed songs, but it still has plenty of delights.

Below is a track-by-track review of “High Hopes”:
“High Hopes”: The title track and first single, a cover of a song by LA-based band The Havalinas written by Tim Scott McConnell, is a tight, percussion and horn-driven mid-tempo rocker that is a good shuffler for concert. Lyrically it kicks off the album with a certain amount of world weariness-yet-hopefulness- that hints at what’s to come. GRADE: B

“Harry’s Place”: Gritty and propulsive, “Harry’s Place” has some good lyrics, but thematically and production wise, it sounds like it would have fit in perfectly to an episode of “Miami Vice” in the mid-‘80s, which is strange since it was written around 2007 about the Bush administration for the excellent “Magic” album. Singing part of the song through a bullet mike and the rest in a gravelly, mysterious voice does the tune no favors (though it worked great on "Reason To Believe"). Morello’s shredding is somewhat wasted here. Admit it, you can hear Glenn Frey singing this right after he finishes “You Belong To the City.” GRADE: C

“American Skin (41 Shots)”:  Originally written to protest the brutal 1999 police killing of Amadou Ballo Diallo —he was an unarmed black immigrant whom the police shot at 41 times—and first performed on the reunion tour in 2000, “American Skin” has matured gracefully. On the newly recorded version, Springsteen trades in some of the anger of the original for a sense of melancholy and resignation, especially in light of the Trayvon Martin killing. The verse about the mother reminding her son to never talk back to the police retains its initial sadness, although the song still feels unwieldy. GRADE: B-

“Just Like Fire Would”:
Originally recorded by Australian band The Saints (and covered by Springsteen during this tour down under), this jangly upbeat track will thrill fans of tunes like “Girls In Their Summer Clothes.” It’s about as pop as Springsteen gets and is a reminder of how great he sounds when he indulges his pure pop side. Nice Beatlesque horns life the track even higher. GRADE: B

“Down In The Hole”: Produced by Brendan O’Brien and originally written for “The Rising,” the mid-tempo, organ-drenched tune is about 9/11 as he sings about “wake to find my city’s gone to black...” and “I’m going to dig right here until I get you back.” There’s a chugging beat similar to “I’m on Fire.” Quietly devastating. GRADE: B

“Heaven’s Wall”: A repetitive, clap-along, gospel-inflected song that consists mainly of “Raise your hands, raise your hands, raise your hands... “ for lyrics. Springsteen does biblical references and gospel well, especially in the refrain of songs like “The Rising,” and this is more of a chance for him to do that without the heaviness. You don’t find yourself saying this often about a Springsteen tune, but there’s a great dance remix in here dying to be made. GRADE: B

“Frankie Fell In Love”: A loose-limbed track that starts acoustic and then bursts into a full-on band tune originally recorded for “Magic.” Between Springsteen’s relaxed vocals, country inflections, and generally upbeat tone: “it all starts with a kiss,” as he reminds us, “Frankie” is a fun, lightweight track that’s not meant to have any deeper meaning. GRADE: B-

“This Is Your Sword”: Celtic-flavored “This Is Your Sword” is an upbeat sweet song about “giving all the love you have in your soul” on the battlefield of love. Musically, it’s redolent of “American Land” and fans of “The Seeger Sessions” will love it for its acoustic drive. It’s good on record, but it’s one of those tracks that could really soar live. GRADE: B

“Hunter of Invisible Game”:
One of the best tracks on the album, produced by Brendan O’Brien. The lilting, string-laden waltz beat is in contrast to the lyrics that are quite dark as he sinks down to the valley “where the beast has its throne.” It’s a track where everything gels about the passage of time and love. It’s easy to get lost in and it features one of his best, if Dylanesque, vocals. GRADE: A-

“The Ghost of Tom Joad”: As fans who have witnessed it in person know, Morello’s addition on the title track from the 1995 album turns it into a ferocious monster with Morello and Springsteen trading guitar licks between singing about the loss of the American Dream. Morello started performing the tune with the band in 2008 and the version here is pretty similar to the one fans hear live with Springsteen generously handing the keys to the car to Morello, who soars off into prog-rock territory during this last extended solo. Despite the pyrotechnics, the song still retains its original poignancy and call for justice. GRADE: B+

“The Wall”: A mournful track about Vietnam that even references Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, who led the escalation of U.S. troops in that war. Elegant and ghostly, Springsteen sings in the track about the wall that built up around the soldiers and their families and about the Vietnam Wall memorial in D.C. Stark and haunting and unforgiving: not toward the soldiers who fought, but to those who sent them there. GRADE: A-

“Dream Baby Dream”:
Springsteen began performing a hypnotic version of the Suicide tune around 2005 with just him and an organ on the “Devils & Dust” solo tour. This studio version is shorter and loses a little of the mesmerizing intensity of the live version with some added instrumentation. It’s more of a sweet benediction than the magnetic solo version, but compelling nonetheless. Plus, from “The Wall” to “Dream Baby Dream” is the album’s best transition. GRADE: B
Will you buy "High Hopes?" 

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Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Oscar winner Mo'Nique signs on for her first film since 'Precious'

Actress to star in 'Blackbird' opposite Isaiah Washington

Nearly four years since she took home an Oscar for her devastating performance in "Precious," Mo'Nique is finally reemerging with a new film.

The actress has signed on to star in "Blackbird," an adaptation of the 2006 coming-of-age novel by Larry Duplechan that she will also executive-produce through her and husband Sidney Hicks' Hicks Media production banner. Also onboard for the film, which is set to be directed by Patrik-Ian Polk ("Noah's Arc," "The Skinny"), are Isaiah Washington ("Blue Caprice"), Terrell Tilford, Gary L. Gray, Kevin Allesee, Torrey Lamaar, Nikki Jane, D. Woods and newcomer Julian Walker.

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"Downton Abbey"

 "Downton Abbey"

Credit: PBS

'Downton Abbey' season premiere breaks PBS records

The two-hour episode is highest rated drama premiere in PBS history
It's been a long time since "Downton Abbey" brought newish episodes to the U.S. (the fourth season has already run back in the U.K.), and fans rejoiced. How many fans? According to PBS, an average of 10.2 million of them tuned in for Sunday's premiere. 
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'Downton Abbey' returns to a record 10.2 million viewers

"Downton Abbey" returns to a record 10.2 million viewers

Last night's Season 4 premiere was the highest-rated drama premiere in PBS history.

HBO orders "Hard," a remake of a French porn comedy
"Sex and the City" writer Jenny Bicks will pen the comedy about a Brentwood housewife who inherits her husband’s failing porn company.

Charlie Sheen apologizes to Ashton Kutcher for calling him "lame"
Sheen tweeted this afternoon: "hey Ashton / sorry bro all good. / now quit barfing / on my old / brilliant show. / Remember / Punk'd? / how duz it feel?"

47 million watched Packers vs. 49ers on Fox

Last night's game was the 7th most-watched program in Fox history, not counting Super Bowls.

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"My 600-lb Life"

 "My 600-lb Life"

Credit: TLC

Exclusive clip: 'My 600-lb Life' goes from the hospital to the drive-thru

Zsalynn's scumbag husband scarfs fries in front of his wife
It is not easy losing hundreds of pounds -- and even less so when your husband is a jerk who eats fries in front of you. That is the plight of Zsalynn, whom we meet on "My 600-lb Life" this season. The show returns to TLC (premieres Tues. Jan. 7 at 9:00 p.m.) to follow the lives of eight people – each weighing over 600 pounds – through their year long journey as they collectively try to lose thousands of pounds. We're hoping part of Zsalynn's weight loss plan includes shedding a couple hundred pounds of husband, too. 
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'SNL's' new black female cast member revealed: Sasheer Zamata

"SNL's" new black female cast member revealed: Sasheer Zamata

Upright Citizens Brigade member Sasheer Zamata will become a featured player when "Saturday Night Live" returns on Jan. 18, according to Deadline. Watch her perform standup and check her out in a sketch scene.

NBC orders a retooled "Mr. Robinson" starring Craig Robinson

"The Office" alum's pilot has been redone -- without "The Office" boss Greg Daniels, who was involved in the first version of the pilot.

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ABC Family picks up Jennie Garth/Tori Spelling comedy, plus Emily Osment in "Young & Hungry"

ABC Family picks up Jennie Garth/Tori Spelling comedy, plus Emily Osment in "Young & Hungry"
The "Beverly Hills 90210" alums will reunite for "Mystery Girls."

Jerry Seinfeld: I'm working on something "big, huge, gigantic" with Larry David
"We wrote this script for this thing that you will eventually see but I can't reveal what it is at this time," Seinfeld said in his Reddit Ask Me Anything. "All I can do is tell you is that it’s big, huge, gigantic. Even bigger than that Amazon package." PLUS: Watch a preview of Patton Oswalt in a "Back to the Future" car with Seinfeld.

New Dish DVR to allow recording of 8 shows at once

Introducing the SuperJoey.

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Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 216

Dan and Alan review 'Intelligence,' 'Killer Women,' 'Girls' and 5 other shows


Happy Monday, Boys & Girls!
We've got so much new stuff premiering this week that we had to reverse the timing for the podcast and the video show. With a ton of stuff premiering on Tuesday, we moved the podcast up to review gems like "Intelligence" and "Killer Women" and whatnot. We have eight reviews in this podcast. That's a lot.
Then tomorrow, we'll do our video show, which will include a Golden Globes preview and a preview of the upcoming TCA press tour, plus reviews of "True Detective," "Enlisted," "Chozen" and "Spoils of Babylon."
Here's today's podcast breakdown:
"Intelligence" (00:02:15 - 00:11:15)
"Killer Women" (00:11:15 - 00:18:00)
"Justified" (00:18:00 - 00:24:30)
"Cougar Town" (00:24:30 - 00:29:30)
"Chicago PD" (00:29:35 - 00:41:45)
"Helix" (00:41:45 - 00:50:45)
"Shameless" (00:50:50 - 00:57:00)
"Girls" (00:57:05 - 01:04:30)

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed or subscribe on IHeartRadio.] 

And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.


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Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 216

Dan and Alan review an awful lot of new and returning shows as 2014 starts off busy


Happy 2014, Firewall & Iceberg fans! The podcast is back on Monday for this week only, simply because press tour starts later in the week and turns both our schedules upside down. It's a super busy week for premieres, and Dan and I dealt with eight different new and returning shows here, and we'll have another four tomorrow on the video show. The rundown: 

"Intelligence" (00:02:15 - 00:11:15)
"Killer Women" (00:11:15 - 00:18:00)
"Justified" (00:18:00 - 00:24:30)
"Cougar Town" (00:24:30 - 00:29:30)
"Chicago PD" (00:29:35 - 00:41:45)
"Helix" (00:41:45 - 00:50:45)
"Shameless" (00:50:50 - 00:57:00)
"Girls" (00:57:05 - 01:04:30)

As always, send questions to You can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. Or you can always follow our RSS Feed, download the MP3 file, subscribe on IHeartRadio or stream it on Dan's blog.

There's also now a complete archive of all the podcasts to date.

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<p>You can almost feel Edgar Wright's elbow give you a shot to the ribs as you check out his hint about his upcoming 'Ant-Man' film</p>

You can almost feel Edgar Wright's elbow give you a shot to the ribs as you check out his hint about his upcoming 'Ant-Man' film

Credit: Marvel Animation

Edgar Wright reveals a major clue about which 'Ant-Man' Paul Rudd is playing

Sounds like a very different approach to a Marvel movie

One of the reasons I've been so excited about "Ant-Man" for so long now is because the premise for the film, as explained years ago by Edgar Wright, sounds like it won't be like any other superhero film we've seen.

The other reason, of course, is because Edgar Wright has one of the most distinct voices in film right now. I'm excited to see how his aggressive visual style fits into the Marvel cinematic universe, and the test footage that was revealed at Comic-Con a few years ago was a tremendously encouraging first look at how Ant-Man's powers could be used in a fight.

Wright's been working on the script for several years now, on and off, with co-writer Joe Cornish, and when I was interviewing Cornish about "Attack The Block," I happened to mention the "Ant-Man" plot I'd heard, and he went a little pale. "You're not going to print that, are you?" he asked, and I assured him that I wasn't going to be the one to ruin all the surprises.

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Study: 80% of Super Bowl ads 'don't sell stuff'

Study: 80% of Super Bowl ads "don't sell stuff"
Turns out, since most Super Bowl ads have nothing to do with the product their selling, viewers will remember the creative part of it more than the actual company behind the ad.

Jerry Seinfeld answers questions on Reddit, recalls his 1975 introduction to Larry David
"The first time I met him," writes Seinfeld, "that's a long story... I actually was eavesdropping on him talking to another comedian, and I wasn't even in comedy yet. But he was leaning on my car in front of the Improv on 9th Ave and 44th Street, and this would be probably 1975." PLUS: Seinfeld answers the question, What if 'Seinfeld' was still on TV today?

Kaley Cuoco adds "Sweeting" to her name
Now that "The Big Bang Theory" star is married, she has added her husband's name, according to her Twitter.

"Kardashians" star Scott Disick loses his father, two months after the death of his mother
Disick's dad, Jeffrey, died Friday in Los Angeles.

Kris Jenner's talk show won't likely return
The E! star's daytime talker had mixed results during a summer test run on Fox.

Old Spice creeps out viewers with "Mom Song" ad
Watch the new ad that premiered during yesterday's AFC Wild Card game.

"The Bachelor" paid tribute to Gia Allemand in last night's special
The moving special aired as part of the "Countdown to Juan Pablo" special.

Showtime puts the "Shameless" season premiere on the web
Watch the censored version now.

"Law & Order" creator Dick Wolf releases his 2nd detective novel

"The Execution" is a follow-up to "The Intercept."

"Downton Abbey" feels like it's run out of steam

"The fourth season doesn't so much extend a plot forward as drift from set piece to set piece," says  Stephen Marche. "The great television dramas have a tendency of writing themselves into corners and then miraculously escaping. Downton has taken the opposite tack. Everything just becomes easier and easier." PLUS: Patton Oswalt live-tweeted the premiere, it seems like "Downton" is remaking the 1st season, everyone is so sad?, and watch "Falling Downton Abbey."

"The Queen Latifah Show" gets a 2nd season
Queen Latifah has a two-year deal, so her renewal was a formality.

"Kroll Show" releases star-studded Season 2 trailer
Among the Season 2 guest stars are Nick Kroll's girlfriend Amy Poehler and Zach Galifianakis.

Comedian Tig Notaro gets her own web show, from Entertainment Weekly
"Up Close with Tig Notaro's" first guest: "Community's" Gillian Jacobs.

Wayne Brady is dating Chilli from TLC

According to Us Weekly, this is their 2nd time as a couple.

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<p>Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori in &quot;The Grand Budapest Hotel.&quot;</p>

Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori in "The Grand Budapest Hotel."

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Ralph Fiennes gets official in new clips from 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'

Wes Anderson's latest premieres in exactly one month's time

We have exactly one month to go before Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is unveiled on the opening night of the Berlin Film Festival. We recently featured the film in our Most Anticipated Prestige Films list, but if your appetite still needs whetting, Fox Searchlight have unveiled another two clips from the all-star comedy, both focused principally on the dashing manager of the titular hotel, played by Ralph Fiennes, and his wide-eyed new lobby boy Zero, played by Tony Revolori.

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