I got my hands on some advance copies of three albums I've really been looking forward to, so while I typed up today's UTK and "Four Downs", I gave them a good listen.
The Rolling Stones "A Bigger Bang" has been coming for a while and is really the first Stones album in a while that seems to be fully engaged. I'm not a big fan of their last few albums with Don Was, who seems more focused on making them 'sound like the Stones' than challenging them. That makes for one or two good songs and a lot of filler. "Bang" isn't like that; it's as if finding the roots of their music in the blues has re-energized them somehow. There's the mix of swagger and stagger, as Material Issue once said, that makes the Stones the Stones and surprisingly relevant as they head into their fifth decade.
Okay, that bears some looking at - are the Stones relevant? Does a band that flaunts Roger Daltrey's wishes really mean anything in today's fractured market? Yes. The Stones are like Babe Ruth coming back to play and still hitting sixty home runs. They're fully capable of mailing it in, showing up to be a museum piece rather than a rock n' roll band, but don't. Keith Richards hasn't lost a step, Ron Wood takes a bigger role than he has since "Under Cover", and Mick Jagger is, well, he's still Mick Jagger.
So, is the album good? Yes. It's the best Stones album since Tattoo You, fully resonant yet fully Stones. There's nothing classic here in the way of Gimme Shelter or Satisfaction, but there's also nothing bad. 'Sweet Neo Con' has got a lot of press and it's the closest the album has to a throw away. 'Look What The Cat Dragged In' sounds a bit too much like INXS's "Need You Tonight" for my tastes.
And speaking of INXS, "Rock Star" has been my top show of the summer. "Prison Break" looks to be the new "24", but "Rock Star" has been everything "American Idol" hopes to be. Down to the bottom five now, there's absolutely no one who doesn't belong. The phenomenally annoying Ty is gone now, exiting while playing the race card and killing one of my favorite songs of all time, leaving an interesting mix of modern and classic. I still think Dave Navarro might be better suited than any of the remaining contestants, but the results of this show are solid. I'm looking forward to next season.
Back to the Stones - what's good? "Rough Justice" is nearly a classic. It's growing on me, with the growling Richards groove and great lyrics spit out by Mick. "Streets of Love" should be the next single, a moaning broken heart plea that shows just how solid this band still is. "Biggest Mistake" is another great slower piece. Overall, I'm giving this one four stars and recommending everyone give it a listen.
I'm also listening to the new Public Enemy. Again, they sound like the old Public Enemy, the one that broke down every barrier put in front of them in the 80's. Twenty years down the line, Bush is keeping them relevant and no one in rap has the dense, haunting sound that PE has. The lyrics are pretty typical PE, with Flavor Flav taking a slightly reduced profile. The epic album closer "Back In The Building" should be required listening. It's equally good whether you're turning the sound up in your car on a Friday night or angry as Anderson Cooper was last night on CNN.
Finally, the new Death Cab For Cutie album is worth a listen. "Plans" expands on the promise of "Transatlanticism" without being derivative. There's no moment that sticks out, which is my only criticism. This is a band that could be great that seems to be stuck too much in one place. It will sound great on the soundtrack of "The O.C." but it might not stick in your brain much. Worth hearing, but I expect more with their next album.