The Rolling Stones today: Mick Jagger, left, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood… (Rankin / Associated Press )
The new Rolling Stones single is out, and it's a rocker.
Whew. It feels really good to write that. In the barometer-setting "Beatles versus Stones" argument, I come down heavily on the side of the Stones, but I haven't been able to confidently say that about a new Stones single in at least two decades. (Listen below.)
Called "Doom and Gloom," the new Stones track is one of two from a forthcoming multi-disc greatest hits package called "GRRR!," and constitutes the first new music from the Stones since 2005's "A Bigger Bang." It's also the first song the band's recorded since guitarist Keith Richards portrayed singer Mick Jagger in less than flattering terms in his bestselling autobiography, "Life."
Fortunately, the Stones -- which these days feature Jagger, Richards, drummer Charlie Watts and guitarist Ronnie Wood -- offer nary a hint of musical disharmony on "Doom and Gloom." Starring Wood's and Richards' ringing interplay and that mystical guitar tone featured in such Stones classics as "Street Fighting Man," "Tumbling Dice" and "Miss You," "Doom and Gloom" is an uptempo dance number in the most rocking sense of the term.
As such, it's driven as much by Watts' metronomic rhythms as those guitars, and combined with hand claps it creates the kind of solid momentum that would drive a crowded dance floor. (That is, were 2012 dance floors looking for a new Stones single, which seems doubtful in the age of Afrojack and DeadMau5). It's not as disco-charged as "Miss You," but Watts channels a similar energy.
And Mick Jagger? He sings of shooting zombies in a Louisiana swamp, fracking, dirt, kids picking through garbage, and hints at protesting the West's military involvement in the Middle East. His voice arrives as insistent as ever -- this isn't the Jagger of "Wild Horses" or "Angie," but of "Rocks Off" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash."
Not that the song is as good as any of those, even if that's primarily due to the passage of time, and pop and rock's affection for youthful exuberance over aged wisdom. Nobody can stay fresh for 50 years, as evidenced by the song's weakest link in the chorus, a couplet that Jagger could have written in his sleep: "Baby take a chance/Baby won't you dance with me?"
Not a shocking lyrical twist, to say the least. But, then, neither was the chorus of "Start Me Up," or any number of earlier Stones gems. What the band's best songs share is a similar vibe, a sense of rock 'n' roll release that typifies the Stones at their best.
Review: KISS unleashes ferociously fun 'Monster'
Live review: Madonna brings 'MDNA' to Staples Center
First take: Taylor Swift accents new single with hint of dubstep
Follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit
PHOTOS AND MORE:
PHOTOS: Iconic rock guitars and their owners
LISTEN: James Bond songs by British artists
PHOTOS: Unfortunately timed pop meltdowns