Three New Stones Tracks
I decided to take the plunge & invest $2.97 in the three 'exclusive' new Rolling Stones songs from their upcoming record on the ITunes music store. Note: I did not download said tracks illegally, even though, of all people, The Stones do not seem to need any portion of my nearly three dollars, no matter how great. But rather, I did it out of respect. Mick, Keith, and Charlie have all provided me with far more joy then I will ever give to someone else, so even if they are a few decades past their prime, who am I to object when they want three clams to listen two three of their tunes before September 6th and the release of their new record? I'll gladly fork it over, less then a beer in a bar, and ominously, about how much it costs to get a gallon of supreme. The Stones, they deserve it.
The last new Stones song I heard was the mediocre 'Don't Stop' off of their oldest-trick-in-the-book greatest hits package/new two or three songs record the clearly frightened of a chart failure Stones released to coincide with their last tour. The song wasn't a travesty (they would need to incorporate more Reggae influence for that) but it was a mediocre, lazy number that lacked focus. One of the things I really wanted to have happened before I (or more likely, they) died, was hearing a new, and great Rolling Stones single on the airwaves. It's been quite awhile since 1981, so the likelihood they have it in 'em is decreasing drastically with each passing album. Maybe I'll get lucky.
So, first up 'Rough Justice'...
First off, the title is terrible, conjuring up images of Mick's horrendous clothing during the Tattoo You Tour, where he combined eye gouging neon colors with shoulder pads too flamboyant for the homoerotic badguy in 'The Road Warrior', with skintight pastel tights with incorporated knee pads. It's enough to make a man want to take back all the nice things about the man he said earlier. The title is lousy, I don't know if Mick is trying to reference some S&M type titillation with a vague political message (this is before I've even heard the song) but it just sounds like the first thing that popped into his wrinkled head.
But the song starts out a-okay, with a meaty stuttering riff, until the song gets into it's minimalist groove propelled by the incomparable Charlie, and fuck a duck, this song isn't half bad. After going the soft route, trying to get a hit through safe midtempo numbers, or yet another fucking ballad, The Stones are trying to do what they were meant to do in the first place and what everyone has been waiting for them to do, namely: JUST DOING ANOTHER FUCKING ROCK SONG.
Then, well Dear Readers, Mick starts spouting off cliche and a weak attempt at a double entendre followed by a few more cliches and well... It kind of fizzles out the impact. Don't get me wrong, hearing a Charlie fill is still just as impressive, some of the slide guitar is right on the border between the too proficient (as Mick Taylor was getting, before he threw his hissy fit and left at the right time to avoid embarrassing himself) and the just right (as say, Beggar's Banquet), and Keith can milk more mileage out of one chord than a dork like Santana can do out of a whole tour, but lyrically, and this is from a guy who demands very little of lyrical content (you pay attention to lyrics, next thing you know you're at a coffee shop in Maine wearing a sweater and making dream catchers while self publishing your own poetry) the song is embarrassing. But it's better then anything the Stones have done in years, but then again, they haven't done SHIT for more then a decade.
Next up, 'Back Of My Hand'...
Blues. Blues lyrics. Blues structures, the kind of thing The Stones can do in their sleep. I know it's their roots, and they've done as much for blues as any man who commissioned an hour long special on television about himself, but what was revelatory in the mid sixties is pretty trite today (and that goes doubly for you, Jack White). If you thought rock cliches were hard to swallow on the preceding number, wait until you get earful of BLUES COMPLAINTS 101 on this little ditty. Tough to swallow. 'Back Of My Hand' isn't as good as 'The Storm', another buried B-Side, nor is it as good as the hovering over okay/pretty good as 'Rough Justice'.
The Finale, 'Streets Of Love'...
The token ballad, the soaring chorus that overpaid producers bumbling around in the studio bothering the engineers use to justify their presence, the song is calculated as all git out to be a big wet sentimental hit. I don't like it very much. It's pretty hard to listen to, actually, and I can't even imagine the horror if they daresay, make a music video out of this, with Mick's 'hair' getting buffeted by the wind, his open shirt flapping in the breeze, as he emotes to the viewer and backlit Keith does knee bends cradling his old telecaster. Please, no.
Well, the tracks could have been far worse. Without the benefit of the time, which can make anything easier to critically analyze in context, I'm going to say this: The new tracks aren't bad. Even if I sound like I'm being rough on the Stones, for a band with such a massive catalog of great songs, they are bound to have some also-rans and numbers that aren't especially impressive. For some oldsters to pop out a collection of songs this decent in the first place is an accomplishment, and for the Stones to stay on top of the charts, even if their game has slipped considerably, is unprecedented. I'm glad they are still around, and the Stones are one of those acts where even their bad stuff just makes you like them more. It's endearing, and it reminds you that they are human.