The Rolling Stones – Black And Blue

blackandblue_coverThe Stones are a primeval source of rock & roll. They are what sired them (i.e., venerated blues purists), but they don’t have the prestige of being obscure. In 2005 the vanguard has become a rite. That’s why I don’t care much for the new rock resurgence. Bands like The Strokes and The White Stripes are “cool,” but they’re living in the 1960s.1

Punk is a good comer. When one version of the punk scene sucks another one crops up. When you pant you settle for the lack. We’re bound to a “revolution” that keeps throwing itself down and out: The pleated promise of a new day–as led by the armies of youth–was negated by the Stones in 1969. The band is tired. If rock & roll is the glad sound of mass alienation, and marking time the fate of something that becomes a machine, the carcass of a giant (the empty shell) is much more compelling (and credible) than all those who would fake being dead. Nobody does the Stones-bad like the Stones.

Everybody peaks and everybody hurts. No one would mistake Black and Blue for a great Stones album. It might be the tightest, most gaunt piece of their middle age, though, which is overlooked. Pushing grooves and fills over song craft, the album is a bummer disguised as a fete–from the white zombies on the cover to the blatant misogyny of the title: this is folk music from the disco era, the fast hedonism matching that of the 1920s. Mick, of course, sounds blacker than ever. Desiccated by all that yeyo, he sports a Rastafarian cough. The bassist (Bill Wyman) is fluid and locked, and the reggae workouts prove that the album is just that–a workout.

The record is a chronicle of exhaustion, rare for depth of feeling and good crude fun. The Stones might be ice cubes, but they are horny down in the hole.

1I used to think The Strokes were bad. Now I get it. They’re colder than The Cars. They want to sound a little bit dirty, but they’re scrappy in a terse, half-finished way. I just wish the hooks had as much gel as the rhythm section.

Rating: A-

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