A Bigger Bang

The Rolling Stones

Virgin, 2005

http://www.rollingstones.com

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/12/2005

It's now official -- September is my lucky month. Last year around this time, I discovered my top two albums of 2004 within a few days of each other. This year, it's the Stones who take that honor.

Until a few months ago, the Stones were not a major component of the Clutterbuck Memorial Archives (started in honor of our dearly departed fearless leader, Christopher "Pierce" Thelen). 40 Licks was lying around somewhere, and that was about it. However, once again, it's been proven out that I missed the train. A few friends donated some albums, which included Let It Bleed, Beggars Banquet, Her Satanic Majesties Request and Exile On Main Street. It only took a few spins of each for me to realize I had been depriving myself of some kick-ass music.

As fate would have it, just as the Stones were starting to grow on me, they released their first album of original material in seven years. Now, going into this particular listen, it's important to keep in mind that the classics later Stones records are always compared to hasn't sunk in for me yet. At this point in time, Let It Bleed and A Bigger Bang are on the same playing field for me, and this record manages to top my list for best record of the year so far.

Whether or not one is a Rolling Stones fan doesn't matter when it comes to defining their sound; it's instantly recognizable. Honestly, there haven't been many bands to blend blues and rock to form their own distinctive brand of music. From the first ticks of "Rough Justice" to the final licks of "Infamy," this is a Rolling Stones record throughout. Mick and Co. aren't trying to be someone else, or add bells and whistles to their stripped-down sound. This is a return-to-roots record, and damn if it doesn't succeed at it.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Seeing as how this disc clocks in at roughly 65 minutes, there is the natural assumption some filler is to be found. While A Bigger Bang doesn't break that rule, the filler isn't as disposable as it could have been. The closest things get to being useless is the final track, "Infamy." While the shoebox guitar sound is catchy, the vocals are a step down from the rest of the album, seeing as how it isn't Jagger or Richards singing (I think it's Charlie Watts). "Let Me Down Slow" finds the band entering more of a pop territory, and could have stood for a stronger refrain.

Picking out the best moments is difficult. If you can get past the eery Air Supply-sounding opening to "Streets Of Love," there's an outstanding Stones ballad to be found. It displays a restraint and "gentleness" the average person wouldn't probably expect from this band. The opening track, "Rough Justice," is one of the better rock songs I have heard in a long time; the opening riff tears into you, and Mick comes along to deliver some suitable raunchy Stones-ish lyrics (i.e. "Once upon a time, I was your little rooster / But am I just one of your cocks").

"Rain Falls Down" is a sequel of sorts to "Miss You," perfectly suited for dancing with an extremely funky beat and spry bass line. "Back Of My Hand" is straight up blues, harmonica and all. Actually, the guitar sound for this particular song reminded me strongly of "In My Time Of Dying" off Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti. While I don't agree with its sentiments, the anti-Bush tirade "Sweet Neo-Con," actually raises some valid points (although the band denied it was about the president). Finally, "This Place Is Empty" gives Keith Richards a chance to stretch out the ol' vocal cords, and his delivery is perfect for this song. You can hear the world-weariness oozing out of every intonation, as the song's protagonist sits alone in a bar.

Who would have thought that a band comprised of 60-year-olds was capable of rocking this hard? I for one didn't think Mick and Co. had it in them, but boy did they prove me wrong. This album succeeds in striking a chord with their previous works; the first listen made more of an impact on me than my first listen of Exile On Main Street. Maybe it took old age for The Rolling Stones to realize what kind of band they exactly are and that it's not worth changing just for the sake of change. Too many bands change, adapt and mess around with a style in order to gain sales or appeal to different age groups. The Stones on A Bigger Bang merely get back in touch with what made them the "Greatest Rock & Roll Band on Earth." That's all they needed to do.

Rating: A

User Rating: A


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