Some band legacies are secure. Can't mess with 'em. Usually, what the untouchables have in common is that they quit at the perfect time.
It hurts to see a band you love reduced to a facsimile of their once ravenous glory. Chugging along, playing their hits the same way every night. Think R.E.M. Think Metallica.
Now... take a deep breath... think the Rolling Stones.
I know what you're thinking: "Of course the Stones should have broken up-but it's the Stones, man!"
Sure-their legacy is secure, so why not milk it for all it's worth? You might argue that they really do love making new music and playing in front of thousands of fans.
That's a fallacy and I'll tell you why.
The desire for new Stones material has decreased a bit since Tattoo You. The only people who buy the albums are "lifers" and the only critics gushing "new masterpiece" are folks like Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner (who lost all credibility when he gave Mick's solo album, Goddess in the Doorway, five stars-a bizarre rating considering even Keith Richards lovingly referred to it as "dogshit in the doorway").
But Richards is one to talk. The band's new album, A Bigger Bang, sounds more like a black hole, with Richards playing the same riffs he perfected 30 years ago. The single, "Rough Justice," could easily be confused with a great song, but only because it sounds exactly like every other Stones song. They might love playing the music, and you might like hearing it-but it's only because it sounds so familiar.
You have enough great Stones songs. What you need is something that lights a fire under your ass now, not a fire under the ass of who you used to be. May as well watch Breakfast at Tiffany's a hundred times and skip every new Jim Jarmusch film.
The Stones are little more than an echo that never ends.
Historically, most Stones lyrics had a hint of profundity that required some quiet analysis on the listener's part. That's when they were high out of their gourds and releasing an album every year. Now they're clean and averaging one every five years. Quick, somebody tie Keith off and get Mick some blow!
Since Undercover, there has been an absolute lack of depth. On "Streets of Love," Mick croons profusions like, "I walk the streets of love and they're full of tears/ I walk the streets of love and they're full of fears" and "The awful truth, it's really sad/ I must admit I was awful bad."
Christ, I've heard deeper Sigur Rós lyrics, and they sing in a nonsensical language only they understand.
Insincerity aside, you can't blame them. They probably realize that since they're old, excessively rich and altogether untouchable, it's hard to take anything they say seriously, especially subjects like love and heartbreak. So why would they bother getting analytical about much at all?
Death is about the only life-altering experience left for them to deal with.
Every Rolling Stones concert since 1981 has been essentially the same. Three-fourths of the songs are pre-'80s hits, with new material and a few obscurities thrown in for the real fans in the upper decks (looking down on the corporate execs and Scientologists in the front rows). Even with rumors of backstage defibrillators and oxygen tanks, they keep on partying like its 1969.
It's one step above a Vegas show. People don't go to be moved; they go to hear "Satisfaction" for the billionth time. They go to check "see the Rolling Stones" off their cultural to-do list.
Someone like Bob Dylan still has it. Tom Waits still has it. But while the Rolling Stones may still move feet, they no longer move the soul. It's not an exhilarating experience; it's a nostalgic playground, which is never what great music-whether recording, writing or playing it-should ever be.
As Robert Plant recently told a reporter who asked about a possible Led Zeppelin reunion: "We were a boy band and I'm not a boy anymore. I prefer my career to have a bit of dignity now."
He wasn't referring to the Stones. But he was.
The Rolling Stones play the first concert at PETCO Park on Nov. 11. $60-$400. 619-232-HELL.