Review Summary: “Get up, get out, into something new.” How ironic.
It’s no overstatement that every Rolling Stones studio album from their 1964 debut to 1973’s release of Goats Head Soup had impressed the public so much that they left behind a massive legacy which had at least two all time classic songs per album, if not more. However, their subsequent releases of It's Only Rock 'n Roll (1974) and Black and Blue (1976) showed the band’s first signs of weakening in which even their biggest hits failed to truly be standouts. Despite these signs, 1978’s Some Girls turned this all around by incorporating catchy disco and punk elements to freshen their act. The album was so successful and beloved that The Rolling Stones of course had to replicate the exact same ideas on their 1980 release Emotional Rescue.
This time around, the implementation of these themes was noticeably poor. It’s not that Emotional Rescue is a hard listen, or even cringe worthy, it’s just a safe and uninspired replication of past ideas that show how strained The Rolling Stones’ creative process had become. Sure “Dance (Pt. 1)” is catchy and even memorable, but it’s so lyrically simplistic and shallow when compared to its far better Some Girls counterpart opener “Miss You.” This is even worse since the music is so uninteresting that it forces the attention on the vocals and lyrics, which luckily are delivered well by Mick Jagger. To make matters worse, lyrically, “Dance (Pt. 1)” is actually one of the most memorable songs with its anthemy chorus “get up, get out, into something new” which is oddly ironic for reasons stated before. Some of the album’s worst tracks fail to even deviate from The Rolling Stones’ typical rock and blues style and are equivalents to the worst moments on It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll.
Sure some of the themes of the weaker tracks were interesting like ones of communism and how it affects children on “Indian Girl” or the idea of getting out and enjoying life in “Dance (Pt. 1),” but the songs these ideas were paired with are so unoriginal sounding that it makes it difficult to care about them in the slightest. Not to forget that the other five tracks are even blander. Take this lyric from “All About You” for instance: “Tell me those lies, let me think they're true, I heard one or two, and they weren't about me, they weren't about her, they're all about you,“ which is sung slowly and robotically. It’s filled with lazy rhymes and cliches in the worst of ways. In no way is its quality comparable to the stylistically similar “Beast of Burden” from Some Girls.
With that said, the album does have its highlights, in which the band cleverly released all as singles. “Send It to Me,” “Emotional Rescue,” and “She’s So Cold” are more than just catchy, but also manage to have memorable instrumentation, vocals, and lyrics. Whether it’s the floaty guitar and chanting of “Send It to Me,” the smooth saxophone and high-pitched disco vocals of “Emotional Rescue” or the fast-paced riff and passionate vocals of “She’s So Cold” these three songs help to keep the album interesting and could even be likened to discography highlights. Because they’re all successfully humorous, such as the hyperbolic lines “I'm the burning bush, I'm the burning fire, I'm the bleeding volcano!” from “She’s So Cold,” they end up being incredibly amusing and memorable in the best way possible. In a way, they overshadow the rest of the album to a point where it makes the lowlights look weak, rather than just average. It’s as if The Rolling Stones still had the capability to write great songs, but deliberately chose to release seven rushed sounding b-side worthy songs alongside their singles.
Despite all of these problems, Emotional Rescue was not the worst album they had released at the time, and not even close to their worst album overall since it still had at least two (in fact three) classic tracks. Which is something that both It's Only Rock 'n Roll and Black and Blue completely failed to achieve. For anyone that’s a completionist or is absolutely enamored with Some Girls, Emotional Rescue is probably worth checking out, but for those that only care for The Rolling Stones’ highlights, steer clear of this lazy album.