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'Rough Justice' kicks off
this record with a

The Rolling Stones
A Bigger Bang (Virgin)


With the release of any new Rolling Stones album,
and not one that’s just a creative recreation of their
earlier catalog, there comes several questions:
What’s the point? Is there anything left to prove?
How bad is it? Is Keith Richards even still alive?

They’re almost legitimate questions, too. The
Stones are, obviously, one of the best bands to ever
walk the planet. But, of course, their latter-day work
hasn’t exactly been up to the extremely high level
the band reached in their earlier days, especially their late-60s, early-70s hey day. But the missteps have only
been such when compared to their absolute masterpieces —
Let it Bleed, Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main St., and
so on. So what about this one? What’s the scoop on
A Bigger Bang?

It is not the worst Rolling Stones album ever. It is not just an excuse to go out on tour. It is not an embarrassment
to the rest of their catalog. Rest all fears, faithful Stones fans, because this is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s
actually quite good, and except for a couple of questionable tracks, it makes for a fun, rocking listen.

Kicking this album off with, well, a bang, is “Rough Justice,” which easily wins the title of “Best Stones Song
Since 1981.” Every album since that year’s
Tattoo You have had one or two standout tracks that prove The
Glimmer Twins still have it. “Love is Strong” and “Out of Control” are two examples of great songs the band has
produced, but “Rough Justice” really does take the cake. This would feel right at home on any hits compilation
the band produces, right next to “Brown Sugar” or “Live with Me.” It has swagger, great riffs, and Ronnie Wood at
his sliding, sleazy best. That in itself, the best Stones song in 25 years, is enough to make
A Bigger Bang worth
the price of admission. But, there really is some more within.

The rest, though, does fall in line with the last few stones albums,
Voodoo Lounge and Bridges to Babylon
especially. Everything has a classic edge with a bit of an updated feel, but the actually quality varies from very
good to very bad.

On the “very good” side, we find “Look What the Cat Dragged In,” complete with it’s neo-INXS vibe. “Oh No Not
You Again” is a classic Stones track in the best sense, with its venom-spitting lyrics and biting guitars. “Back of
My Hand” is their follow-up to
Sticky Finger’s “You Gotta Move” and their best straight blues track since Exile. And
Keith’s “Infamy” is an excellent bit of sleaze-rock to close the album.

For passible tracks, there’s the instantly infamous “Sweet NeoCon.” The music itself isn’t bad, a harmonica-
driven rock track, but the lyrics instantly date themselves. The message itself isn’t offensive — unless you
yourself are Pat Robertson or Sean Hannity. The track, with over referencees to Haliburton and the Pentagon,
just doesn’t have much staying power. “She Saw Me Coming” and “Let Me Down Slow” are decent rockers, as
most of this record is. “Streets of Love,” though, is bad. It sounds like a bad copy of “Already Over Me,” with
sentimental lyrics that are just beyond unbelievable coming out of Jagger’s mouth, and "Rain Fall Down" doesn't
go too far with its pseudo-funk beat.

So there it is. It’s the Stones in all their latter-day glory, complete with excellent tracks and now-expected
miscues. Is it revolutionary? Not at all. But this album does find the band very comfortable in its 60-year-old skin,
and that in itself helps make this the best Stones album of the last 25 years.

So save any jokes about the Stones being around for the first Big Bang because, for the most part, this record
really does have some great rock. You just have to skip around a bit to find it.