‘Life Really Does Begin At Forty. Up Until Then You Are Just Doing Research‘
That’s Carl Jung. And he may have been talking about The Stones; after all, people are doing great things when more seasoned, those tongue-in-cheek Saga adverts we see in the UK, the jeans and boots-wearing grandpas which I remember seeing more of around Tony Blair’s first UK Prime Ministerial reign, late 1990’s – all of this is great.
I still wear jeans and boots, I curl my ‘tasche; I’m approaching 60. And I relish the feeling in society that older people can still do stuff, in fact, they might be better at it than those younger who might write them off.
Step Forward, The Rolling Stones. Now down to 2 originals, it was a surprise to see them continue to tour after Charlie Watts passed and it would have been an excellent time to bow out. If they didn’t still have the taste.
But The Stones do. And this album, their first original material from the Stones since 2005’s ‘A Bigger Bang’ has some real teeth. They aren’t bared that much, but they’re there. As Alex Petridis said in The Guardian;
‘The Stones’ first album of original material in 18 years crackles with a sense of purpose, with fabulous Keith Richards riffs and Mick Jagger sounding genuinely energised…’
A Diamond In The Rough
Apparently named after the shards of glass left after a burglary in an inner city conurbation, this is produced by Andrew Watt, who has recently made Ozzy Osborne albums sound so good, that this has been stripped of all sonic accoutrements which could swaddle or muffle the sound but with not too much grit and grime, this was apparently recorded over a few weeks to meet a deadline.
And that works. The riff to opener ‘Angry’ is friendly and reminds us of other Keith Richards riffs, not that he’s recycling, but they sound sonically similar; that’s fine, he’s earned the right to settle back into his own success.
Some say Richards hasn’t written a great riff since ‘Start Me Up’ and they may be right, but they don’t need to be world-beating, just expectation-beating.
And with The Stones’ feeling of enjoyment, that’s what they do. They’re boisterous, and playful, Jagger joining in with that lairy vocal right in your face, he really attacks the lyrics to ‘Bite My Head Off’ whilst Richards joins him with a buzzing solo which then rears up to Rockabilly.
There’s even a bruised, troubadour ballad in ‘Depending On You’ which checks back to their early 70’s sound, even wheeling in an organ later on. And that sax solo in ‘Get Close’ it manages to concentrate even when being jabbed by a Richards or Ronnie guitar.
There are guests here like Elton John tickling the ivories, but the vocal duet with Lady Gaga, ‘Sweet Sounds Of Heaven’ is a well-modulated, expensive-sounding enormous ballad and we end with another check back, to the early days of Blues tracks with a prominent Gob iron – ‘Rolling Stone Blues’ is probably necessary.
A Return To Form For The Stones?
Form? The Stones never lost it. Actually, its a ridiculous question, form is irrelevant. They have always been here, they will always be here. And they’re still showing other bands how it’s done, Alan Light in Esquire commenting that the album is a;
‘…startling and unlikely triumph, a consistently solid and swaggering set of songs…’
And they sound happy to be playing, delighted to be making music together and ready to be rapscallions again. The Stones show other bands how to do it. That they have to is worrying for Rock. That they still can and want to is a delight.