Will the history of rock music show the progression of great artists as follows: Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Bjorn Baillie & The Breaks? Probably not but that’s the implication on ‘Vista,’ an album that attempts to place itself between the peaks of Mount Petty and Mount Springsteen but ends up being more like the reflection of those peaks in a puddle.
While there are some catchy numbers on there, particularly the opening track One More Try, time and again the album betrays how conservative and safe it is and how little vision went into its creation. Better Reason has a thinly disguised reimagining of the opening to Springsteen’s The River, A Midnight Musical’s intro is heavy with Roy Bittan, and The Breaks attempts a Clarence Clemons sax solo that is completely aimless and tone-deaf.
The reason Springsteen’s music works is because when he writes a song he knows how to develop it and tends not to let the piece devolve into counting out beats. Also, he is a true band-leader. If something doesn’t work he goes over it again and again until he gets it right so that not only are there rarely songs that feel unnecessary on his albums, often there are not even moments within songs that lag. ‘Vista’ by comparison feels directionless, like there’s no one at the helm to control the quality and it ends with a whimper. When it finishes and you suddenly realise you’re not listening to it anymore you just want to shrug and stick on ‘Born to Run’.
Lyrically the album is just as unadventurous, but the closing song That Lady From Portland is notable for how bizarre it is. It is a kind of “ode to self” with Bjorn recounting his time with a woman he knows/knew who thought he was great and she really needed him and her sister was really jealous and we never even find out if it was Oregon or Maine.
‘Vista’ warrants a listen-through as there are some decent melodies on there, but the more you listen to it the more the songs start to repeat themselves and it’s hard to ever shake the feeling that it might have been a better album if more thought and vision had gone into it.