The Rolling Stones - Under Cover
This album does not get the credit it deserves - among music fans or anywhere else for that matter. Too many times it is written off as a conjunction of the Stones playing at the eighties, with a throwback to the edginess of the punk-dominated late seventies and the Stones missing their aim by some considerable degree wide of the mark. Yet, when all is said and done, this is a good solid listen. The Stones knew their craft and they could belt out some classics when they wanted too. They sure belted out a few on this one despite the negativity.
OK, if you don't like the Stones you are probably not going to like this. And if you are new to the Stones then I would agree that this is not a place you should start to explore the band and all they have to offer. But the Stones had latched on to a formula for albums and it had worked for them so well over the years, so why change it. That may be the antithesis of what we expect from music these days, but in truth, everyone needs a reference point and the Stones provide musically as a good a reference point as you can get.
The Stones' later catalogue has been derided as a pale rehashing their old material and relying on a surfeit of sexist and sexual imagery to sell. That accusation does not give due credit to what the Stones are. Simply put, they do not need to pretend to be great rockers - they simply are great rockers. And as for using sex to sell, well surely that is a barb too deep: a) sex sells anyway whether or not the Stones or someone else does it and b) the Stones have been doing it for years and continue to do it better than almost anyone else. They may no longer have been the only ones striking this pose, but they provided a template for others to follow and mimic, and sometimes the pupil can outshine the master.
Whether it is the suggestive smuttiness of "Undercover of the Night", the brazenly exploitative cover of a naked woman in a pose which suggests bondage and sexual humiliation or whether it is the gore-slaked video of "Too Much Blood" the Stones showed they were still able to engage in controversy when they felt like it. You could argue that the band were simply going through the motions this time and that they were being controversial for the sake of it - an attempt to boost a flagging career with some good honest filth, but again you would be wide of the mark.
So in retort, "the times have changed and the Stones haven't changed with them." Maybe that is true, but has no one around here heard of the oft-used cliché, enduring popularity. In truth, when someone writes off the Stones as simply going through the motions, you must remember that the Stones doing that, if that is a fair critique of their approach, then they do it far better than the rest. And apart from anything else, this album has aged a lot better than many of its critics would have imagined it capable of when it first came out.
So come on, listen to this for what it is. A few great tracks and a couple of fillers. That has been the Stones way for decades. When they rock they rock, so rock with it and ditch the prejudices. This may not be the best Stones album of all time - far from it - but it still has plenty to offer and to ignore that offering is to overlook the fact that the Stones were, by this time, the only band who were capable of doing this just as they had twenty years before (albeit in somewhat different circumstances).
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