Review Summary: An almost perfect pop effort. Not bad for a first try.
This was, and remains, the biggest step forward in the band’s career. After a string of albums comprising mostly of covers, with some originals here and there, the Stones released a record built entirely around their own compositions and solidified themselves as long-term professional songwriters. If Out Of Our Heads
showed they could pen a couple of great singles, Aftermath
was their chance to prove everyone that they weren’t a gimmick, but a staying power.
Recorded between the tail end of 1965 and the start of the next year, the album dives into the pop vibes of the era, but don’t mistake this for a cheap, bandwagon-jumping excuse of a record. The songwriting duo of Jagger/Richards has a strong sense of where
it’s heading for the majority of the album, despite closing with a more or less generic, but still enjoyable, pop number (What To Do
). You can hear them churn out rock’n’roll numbers with their often imitated, but never matched, wildness and charisma on Flight 505
or Stupid Girl
, sure. But what is more, you can see them take this danger and raw power that exists at the core of their sound and transform it in a million ways; even get rid of it completely sometimes.
You have the folk-based Mother’s Little Helper
opening the album with a blast. Then, you are treated with some Motown-ish, but very nasty and harsh pop tunes, like the swinging Under My Thumb
and the dramatic Out Of Time
. You can also relax with a couple sweet country affairs like High And Dry
. And, if you’re in for some romance, you have your Elizabethan/medieval ballad in the form of Lady Jane
, or the really goth-like I Am Waiting
. In other words, the boys showcase a terrific mastery of diverse, captivating songwriting.
What makes the whole experience even more unique has to be Brian Jones, who emerges from his “pure-blues” period and begins his short, but brilliant role in the band as the “man who played a million instruments”. No other musician at the time boasted such an incredible talent for unconventional instrumentation and an ear for creating counter-melodies for all the main hooks in every song. Whether he’ll be adding some Eastern influence with menacing sitar lines, elegance with the dulcimer or mystique with the marimbas, Brian proved he was able to move on to other musical explorations, just like his band-mates.
Speaking of which, the rhythm section comprising of the always bored Charlie Watts and the always stiff Bill Wyman is stellar here. They can be outright frightening, pummeling their respective instruments with unstoppable force, as witnessed on the opener, implement an understated interplay on ¾ throughout I Am Waiting
or just ripping through It’s Not Easy
, bolstered by Bill’s fuzz bass.
The only part of the album that is sure to split listeners is the 11 minute Goin’ Home
. Now, the main melody and songwriting is great, just like anything else here; the “bom bom bom back home” part is in a class of its own. But the whole song plays out like a seemingly endless jam and I can’t say it’s a stone cold classic, innovative as it is (first recorded long jam from a rock band). It certainly has its charms, what with the always changing improvisations of Jagger, but this is certainly an acquired taste. Me, I enjoy it more often than not, but I’m not always in the mood for it, but you could absolutely hate it and it’s not hard to see why. Which is what robs the album of a higher rating.
All in all, this is more or less a fantastic effort. Unjustly forgotten, just like the rest of the ’66-’67 period of the band, but uniquely beautiful and charming at the same time. With its fair share of classics and its splendid consistency, it’s hard to be a ‘60’s admirer and not fall in love with it. Just be sure to get rid of the typical perception you might have of the band, the roots-rock-but-not-good-at-anything-else one and see the album as it is. A fantastic pop album.
And I know what you’re thinking now, dear reader. Like the lazy, unmotivated slob that I know you are
, you want me to give you some highlights, so you don’t have to waste time digging out for yourself. But I really won’t sweat myself on a track by track just because you won’t bother to give this record a listen. Grab your headphones and give it a try! Trust me! Apart from the well-known hits that you’re bound to like on this album, there is a ton of unheard, but brilliant material, some of which I hinted at before. Love your Stones!
Or don't. It's your
choice and your
bad taste, matey.