Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Rolling Stones-Sticky Fingers


Artist: The Rolling Stones
Album: Sticky Fingers
Label: Virgin
Year: 1971

I never cared about Sticky Fingers. Nothing about it ever grabbed me. "Brown Sugar" was never one of their better singles, and while yes, "Wild Horses" was absolutely beautiful, the songs were really lukewarm at best. That some people considered this the band's greatest album blew my mind.
A few weeks ago for reasons I don't remember, I decided to give the album a truly fair chance, and I didn't think really any differently of it. The first four songs were still solid, then the middle of the album and start of side two did nothing for me. And then the final track "Moonlight Mile" came on, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. The song is unspeakably beautiful. It stuck out to me in a way few songs ever have. It wasn't just head and shoulders above the rest of the album...it put the band's entire output historically in shame. So I had to give this album another chance. And what was once mundane really began to click.
"Brown Sugar" IS one of their best singles. This album really belongs to Charlie Watts and that is evident at the point in the song he brings out the Maracas. It's such a simple song, but maybe just because I'd never been into it before, it's starting to appear like one of their best. "Wild Horses" is still superb and sublime. "Can't You Hear Me Knocking," again, at one point Watts adds a bit of accent to it which really makes it killer. The first side ends with a good cover of "You Gotta Move" which...is nothing REMARKABLE but still quite good.
The second side is more difficult. After "Bitch", "I Got The Blues" and "Sister Morphine" are very slow songs which take a while to get into. The country influence is more evident than ever for the band, and that would expand in Exile and Goat's Head Soup. "Dead Flowers" is one of their best upbeat songs, and then the perfect "Moonlight Mile" ends the album.
So now that I've done an unnecessary song-by-song assessment, here's what I think. Like Let It Bleed the album suffers from uneven-ness. "Mile" and "Wild Horses" are towering BEHEMOTHS of songs, while others are only good after repeated listens. And some of these songs have great PARTS while not being that interesting cover to cover (ends of "Sister Morphine" and "I Got The Blues"...not unlike "Live With Me" and "Monkey Man").
This album, is, however, their druggiest album. Are there any songs here NOT about heroin? It seems like it's the first time they have really tackled drugs which were obviously a huge part of their lives, and for that I give them credit. Don't get me wrong, Sticky Fingers is a great fucking record with some of their best songs, but it's nowhere near as even as Banquet or Exile and for that it suffers.

Television-Marquee Moon


Artist: Television
Album: Marquee Moon
Label: Elektra
Year: 1977

This one really hurts. I go through weird phases with music where I am either spending a week listening to old favorites to see how I currently feel about them and then other weeks I just try to absorb nothing but new music. As I drove up to Canada to visit my friend Tanya this past weekend, I made it a point to listen to some old albums I haven't listened to in years...all of which are certainly far away from my original opinion of them. With that in mind, some of the reviews around this week will have that as a focus. I played Marquee Moon as I drove up, for probably the first time all year...an album which used to be one of my favorites ever...but I honestly struggle now to see what I loved about it.
I really liken it to an ex-girlfriend. The kind that you know you had a genuine love for, but just feel differently about now. But I'll return to that in a moment.
See nearly every song is excellent. Blistering hot guitar solos from Tom Verlaine illuminate opener "See No Evil" and the 10-minute epic title track. The guitar tone is also superb on tracks like "Venus" and the harrowing ballad "Guiding Light."
The songs are played excellently, with sparse drumming that works just right and accents at just the right time. The bass lines are also excellent and add their own melody. Richard Lloyd's guitar playing is also magnificent, and the dual guitar work between him and Verlaine is excellent.
Furthermore, there is a wide variety of style here. "Elevation" is dark and menacing, whereas "Guiding Light" (my favorite song on the album) is a ballad. The band has a specific sound but they still create a remarkably diverse record.
So why don't I give a shit about it anymore? I used to listen to it and get that FEELING. That feeling when a perfect part of a song just hits you. During the "Darling, darling...do we part like the seas?" part of "Guiding Light" I always had the shiver in my chest which excited me. But not anymore. I just don't love it anymore.
And you know how when you are done with a relationship...you realize there were things that mattered more than you realized? You used to be more forgiving, right? "Prove It" is that sign that maybe the album wasn't as exceptional as I once imagined. That song is really just not that interesting, and kind of boring, and certainly the weakest lyrically.
Maybe I can re-visit Marquee Moon one day and love it again. I have with other albums (gone in and out of favor), but right now...I just don't know what I loved about it.