A Bigger Bang
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Reviewed by Red Rocker
When reading all the pre-release hype for this record (and ensuing world tour), I was, to say the least, very skeptical. All the reviews of the Stones “getting back to their roots” and ending years of “creative writing blocks” seemed quite a stretch. Admittedly, they have endured a great deal these last few years. Suicide, divorce, and cancer have all reared their ugly heads for the greatest rock and roll band in the world. To their credit, they are still together and they are still making music. Unfortunately, they are all closer to taking required minimum distributions from their IRAs than they are to even the tail end of their creative glory run (call it Steel Wheels, 1989). As a result, the music suffers in the end.
Right out of the box, the great Mick Jagger can’t help but clutter up a decent riff with a clumsy, 3rd grade level lyric. “Rough Justice”, the first single (if such a thing still exists for the classic rock rank) opens “One time you were my baby chicken, now you’ve grown into a fox / Once upon a time I was your little rooster, now am I just one of your cocks.” It recalls another X-rated nursery rhyme from Voodoo Lounge, as the otherwise valid “Sparks Will Fly” was bogged down then with a chorus of “Sparks will fly, sharks will cry.” Huh? Unfortunately, the elementary song writing discredits the at-times legitimate compositions more than once. A raucous “Oh No, Not You Again”, which sounds like a reworked “Respectable” from Some Girls, provides all the traditional Stones muscle until Jagger spews, “Everybody’s talking, showing up their wit / The moon is yellow, I’m like Jell-O, staring down your tits.” Pitiful.
It used to be that the Stones would manufacture a vintage record of ten songs every 12 months or so. One has to believe they were disposing of songs back then which were better than the singles they’re coughing up today. 15 or 16 songs are making the cut now, which makes you wonder if there is any quality control going on at Stones, Inc. Pure filler tracks like “It Won’t Take Long” and the obligatory Keef entry “This Place Is Empty” expose the unsightly underbelly of this once impervious juggernaut and even poison the bona fide nuggets like “Back Of My Hand” (which is straight off Exile on Main Street) and the tender ballad “Streets Of Love”. My colleague John Paulsen did a Stones piece recently called “Deep Cuts” in which he chronicled the ones that got away throughout their great career. With that, I revisited my vast collection of Stones artifacts and rejoiced in spinning “Monkey Man” and “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” for the first time in years. It really does suck watching our idols grow old (Mick once spoke of “what a drag it is” some 40-odd years ago), but watching them become irrelevant is even worse.