July 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

What put me off the Stones as a teenager was, firstly, their position in the Mojo-approved museum of rock music, their apparent monolithic status: everyone, it was presumed, knew all the albums & the told-every-six-months stories, apocryphal or otherwise; how is anyone meant to listen to, to interpret bodily & with pleasure, anything so always-already gilded by reputation? Secondly, it was their apparent good humour, their well-adjustedness, their affability. In the early clips, with a long-haired Jagger clapping & harp-huffing on-stage, Richards & Jones in suits, it was apparent they had always been Lads, out for a good time (& all the other pleasures of the flesh for wh/ rock ‘n’ roll was a permanent cipher). I wasn’t having a good time between the ages of, say, 14 & 20, & wasn’t out for one. So if it’s not a revelation it’s at least a pleasant change to see Cocksucker Blues (wh/ I noticed was filleted for footage in the otherwise lackluster 50th anniversary doco Crossfire Hurricane, though the Stones apparently continue to keep the former under wraps) & to actually hear Exile On Main Street. Its mood isn’t that of the demonic obviousness of ‘Midnight Rambler’, ‘Brown Sugar’ or ‘Bitch’, nor the slightly smug exultation of ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ or ‘Let It Bleed’, but of a desperate out-of-it fight against melancholy, a slurred running against the limits of the easy life permitted by exorbitant fame & wealth. Its creators sound as if bodily but not mentally present – Jagger, in particular, is barely comprehensible, though, it’s clear from his articulation, deliberately so. (The fact that on many songs the band consists of makeshift lineups or odd mutations of the Mick Taylor quintet, mostly due to members’ drug problems, adds to this sense of productive dislocation or incapacitation.) The arrangements are so dense, the playing so loose & syncopated & captured with such a condensed democracy – something that probably comes, again, from accident, the recording conditions in Richards’ Riviera villa being far from ideal – that it sounds more like a weather system, riffs as squalls & voice as rustle of grass, than rock’s ego-ideal of explosive phallic presence: a kind of automatism of the blues.

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