April 28, 1986 12:00 PM

Rolling Stones

This album, distinguished by a dark, relentless energy and stunning—if depressing—cynicism, would be an arresting piece of work if it had been done by almost anyone else. Coming from the Stones, though, the music is disappointing. The band’s first studio album since 1983, it includes such bombastic Jagger vocals as Dirty Work and Winning Ugly, and Keith Richards’ unexpectedly gentle handling of Sleep Tonight and reggaeish singing on Too Rude. Some of the lyrics are so casually obscene—not sexy, but obscene—that it seems the group is trying to make sure it can still have an impact. Other tunes are about violence, from punches in the gut to nuclear war. Easy listening it’s not. What’s disappointing is that there’s nothing new on this LP, nothing that suggests a spirit of adventure or growth. The final track, which lasts 30 seconds, is a boogie-woogie piano introduction that just peters out, leading to nothing. It’s a tribute to (and played by) the Stones’s longtime sit-in pianist, the late Ian Stewart, but what it really turns into is a tease. It makes you think how invigorating it would be to hear the band incorporate some unadorned blues and boogie sounds into its now familiar, if still intoxicating, rock base. This obviously is a group that no longer has anything to prove. But why not occasionally do something imaginative for imagination’s sake? (Columbia)

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