New Rolling Stones CD reviewed
If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it as often as Satisfaction. The buzz surrounding the new Rolling Stones album A Bigger Bang — their first studio disc since 1997’s Bridges to Babylon — is that it’s (all together now) Their Best Album Since the ’70s.
Of course, if you recall, they said that about Bridges to Babylon too. And Voodoo Lounge. And pretty much every other album they’ve made since the ’70s.
But this time, there may be a little something to it. No, A Bigger Bang — in stores Tuesday — is not going to make you chuck your copies of Some Girls, Black and Blue and Exile on Main St. But it invites comparison with those classics a little more easily than anything the World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band has done in years.
Maybe it’s because Mick Jagger and Keith Richards finally buried the hatchet and started writing songs together again. Maybe it’s that Jagger’s expletive-laced lyrics make them seem younger. Maybe it’s the no-frills, live-sounding production of Don Was and The Glimmer Twins. Or maybe it’s just because after putting out so many clunkers over the years, they were due for a break.
Whatever. All we know is that the 16-track A Bigger Bang packs a pretty big bang for your buck. Here’s a track-by-track review:
1. Rough Justice (3:13)
Fittingly — and as usual — the Stones kick things off with the proverbial bang, hitting the ground running with this gritty rocker laced with distorted guitars, topped with slide licks and anchored by one of Charlie Watts’ trademark four-on-the-floor beats.
Best Line: “Once upon a time I was your little rooster / But now I’m just one of your cocks.”
Sounds A Little Like: Happy with a touch of You Got Me Rocking.
2. Let Me Down Slow (4:16)
Also as usual, The Stones stumble almost as soon as they get out of the gate. With strummy guitars, whiny vocals and lyrics that seem tossed-off, this country-rocker is one of the disc’s weaker songs — though the chiming solo is a gem.
Sounds A Little Like: It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (at least at first) with a dash of Dead Flowers.
3. It Won’t Take Long (3:54)
Keith supplies the chunky growling riff, Charlie pounds out the rolling midtempo beat, and Mick belts out yet another forgettable song about leaving a lover behind.
Sounds A Little Like: Brown Sugar cut with molasses.
4. Rain Fall Down (4:53)
The album’s first truly danceable cut bounces along to a bass-heavy beat that deftly toes the line between reggae and disco. Too bad Jagger’s refrain about making “sweet love” conjures up visions of South Park’s Chef.
Best Line: “The bankers are wankers every Thursday night / They just vomit on the ground.”
Sounds A Little Like: A cocktail of Miss You, Hey Negrita and Emotional Rescue.
5. Streets of Love (5:10)
A hushed intro builds into a fully landscaped chorus complete with strings on the disc’s first ballad.
Sounds A Little Like: Memory Motel renovated.
6. Back of My Hand (3:32)
The requisite blues track, complete with stompy bass drum, spiky John Lee Hookerish licks, twangy slide guitar and Jagger honking on harmonica.
Best Line: “I see Goyas / And paranoias.”
Sounds A Little Like: A medley of You Gotta Move, Love in Vain and Midnight Rambler.
7. She Saw Me Coming (3:12)
Jagger gets caught in flagrante delicto to a hip-swivelling groove with reggae overtones and a funky bassline — as Charlie whacks the holy hell out of that Chinese cymbal he loves so much.
Best Line: “She busted in and burglarised my soul / But now the bad news / She’s out on parole.”
Sounds A Little Like: Hot Stuff.
8. Biggest Mistake (4:06)
Your garden variety Stones rock ballad with a strummy, hazy vibe.
Best Line: “I never go out / I’m becoming a grouch / I just watch the TV and drink on the couch.”
Sounds A Little Like: A leftover from Jagger’s Alfie soundtrack from last year.
9. This Place is Empty (3:16)
There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who love Keith’s ragged, rusty-pipe balladry and those who don’t. If you’re in the second group, you’re wrong.
Sounds A Little Like: Losing My Touch.
10. Oh No, Not You Again (3:46)
The band catch their second wind with this propulsive, thumping rocker that harkens back to the Some Girls days.
Best Line: “Everybody’s talking, showing off their wit / The moon is yellow, I’m like Jell-O / Staring down your t–.”
Sounds A Little Like: A laid-back combo of Respectable, When the Whip Comes Down and Hang Fire.
11. Dangerous Beauty (3:48)
An ominously rumbling bassline, a tensely paced groove and Keef and Ronnie Wood’s twin slashing guitars imbue this number with an air of menace that suits the title.
Best Line: “Was it funny on the midnight shift / I bet you had your share of stiffs.”
Sounds A Little Like: An outtake from Dirty Work.
12. Laugh, I Nearly Died (4:53)
Jagger unleashes the falsetto and doles out the vibrato on this soulfully supple ballad. Keith and Ronnie paint around him with shimmering, luminous chords while Charlie massages the tom-toms like thunder on the horizon.
Sounds A Little Like: Fool to Cry on steroids.
13. Sweet Neo Con (4:33)
AKA The Song Least Likely to be Uploaded to Dubya’s iPod. Built on a deliberately paced, underfurnished funk-rock groove accented with harmonica and jingly guitar notes, the music takes a backseat to Mick’s Bush-bash lyrics.
Best Line: “It’s liberty for all, democracy’s our style / Unless you are against us / Then it’s prison without trial.”
Sounds A Little Like: Love is Strong.
14. Look What the Cat Dragged In (3:57)
Another bouncy rump-shaker, decorated with spiky disco guitar riffs, noodly asides and a thumping beat.
Best Line: “You look like a leper / Dressed as Sergeant Pepper / Are you gonna throw up in my face?”
Sounds A Little Like: Undercover of the Night gene-spliced with INXS’s The Devil Inside.
15. Driving Too Fast (3:56)
A fairly standard Stones rocker with a suitably driving beat, some revving guitars and a bunch of highway-as-life metaphors.
Sounds A Little Like: A punched-up revamp of Iggy Pop’s Corruption.
16. Infamy (3:48)
The mandatory closer from Keef boasts a shambling gait, a phased guitar and some harmonica honking from Mick.
Best Line: “You’re living in a nightmare baby / and I mistook it for a dream.”
Sounds A Little Like: An outtake from one of Keith’s solo albums.
New Rolling Stones CD reviewed