A Bigger Bang (2005)
My theory that the Rolling Stones simply don’t know how to critically assess or edit their music is the only way to explain A Bigger Bang. A Bigger Bang has to contain every tune, melody, riff, couplet, quatrain, fever dream, and fart Jagger and Richards had produced in the previous eight years. And that variance in quality reaches the level of a joke. You could remove the five worst songs from this A Bigger Bang, and you’d have the best Stones album since Some Girls; or remove the five best songs, and you’d have an album so frighteningly lazy and incompetent that it would jeopardize the Stones’ legacy.
Both albums would still be on the long side. ‘
A Bigger Bang kicks off with "Rough Justice," which is like a repeat of "Flick The Switch," but with the kinks ironed out. "Rough Justice" is raw and unselfconscious, coming in the middle of the whole garage rock revival that was happening at the time, the Stones actually were showing the youngins how it’s done.
On A Bigger Bang, the Stones finally embrace their age. Their experimentation isn’t for the purpose of raging against the passage of time, which gives the good songs an air of maturity or at least self-awareness. "Back Of My Hand" is a genre experiment that wholly and successfully commits to its genre (raw twangy blues) rather than throwing a bunch of elements at the wall, and it really is excellent, my favorite song post-comeback song. "Laugh, I Nearly Died" and "Sweet Neocon" are the other highlights, and they couldn’t have happened if the Stones hadn’t embraced being adult-oriented rock.
"Sweet Neocon" is a political protest song that could not have been written by anyone younger than middle age. It’s not the fire and brimstone rage usually associated with protest music. Sometimes it overreaches with lyrics that sound like Politico headlines in iambic pentameter, but the precision is exhilarating.
The bad songs have the decency to be flamboyantly bad, giving the impression that everyone involved knows how bad they are. One of them is even called "Biggest Mistake," a ballad about how Mick Jagger regrets his womanizing ways. There is no way "Biggest Mistake" isn’t an elaborate prank.
The closing track, "Infamy," actually is a joke, the title is a pun. It sounds like a 90s sitcom theme or something that Robbie Williams would be furiously trying to shove down the memory hole. Keith Richards, who sings this one, must be the world’s worst poker player because he just can’t manage to not sound bored and irritated by it.
Shortly after wrapping up the Bigger Bang World Tour, Richards fell out of a coconut tree in Fiji and had to be taken to New Zealand for emergency surgery. Whenever it occurs to me that The Rolling Stones' worst song was nearly also their last song, I feel compelled to listen to Sticky Fingers on repeat for about four days before I can face the world again.
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