Sex, hangovers, walks of shame. Sounds suspiciously like a typical weekend in college, but actually, this is what The Rolling Stones are still singing about, nearly 40 years after they took the United States by storm with their first American release, 1964’s England’s Newest Hitmakers. On A Bigger Bang, their first studio album since 1997’s Bridges to Babylon, the Stones prove that they, like fine wine and good cheese, only improve with age.
Jagger and Richards put aside their infamous animosity while making this album, waiting for drummer Charlie Watts to recover from throat cancer. The end result is raw, unadulterated rock served in classic Stones fashion, making all aging rocker stereotypes and labels meaningless.
The album dazzles right from the get-go with the dirty guitar licks of “Rough Justice.” Rife with delightful, steadfast, double entendres and sexual imagery like “Once upon a time / I was your little rooster / But now I’m just one of your cocks” and “So put your lips to my hips baby / And tell me what’s on your mind,” this song immediately picks up where the Stones left audiences hanging almost 40 years ago.
Fans longing for earlier-sounding Stones songs are sure to be taken with “Let Me Down Slow,” a track that showcases Jagger’s sound with a country twang, backed by a chain-smoking Richards playing some wicked chords. It doesn’t really matter that Jagger sounds just like he did on “Dead Flowers”; what really matters is that on this song, his voice sounds just as good as it did on the Sticky Fingers classic.
On the remorseful “Biggest Mistake,” the listener can’t help but empathize with Jagger as he pathetically whines, “I acted impatient / I acted unkind / I took her for granted / I played with her mind.”
Richards also gets a chance at the mic, attempting to show off his vocal prowess on “This Place Is Empty” and “Infamy.” However, the role of sexy frontman is better left to Jagger. Richards trying to sound sweet and tender is just as creepy now as it was in the ’60s.
The only missteps of Bang are some spots of unsophisticated lyrics and a few unoriginally titled songs. Lyrics like “I was a stupid jerk / She was a piece of work” on “She Saw Me Coming” and “Driving too fast / I think you’re gonna crash” on the unsurprisingly titled “Driving Too Fast” are much too juvenile. Maturity is also lacking for song titles such as “Oh No, Not You Again” and “Laugh, I Nearly Died.” Childish titles and lyrics should have no place on a record by the gang who once proclaimed themselves “The World’s Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band.”
Love and heartache are the overarching themes of Bang, but diehard Stones fans shouldn’t worry that their legendary classic rock idols are going soft. If age is a sign of things to come, listeners can expect to be rocked just as hard on future Stones albums.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars