1980, Music

Emotional Rescue (1980) by the Rolling Stones

I don’t know what to do with my first impressions.

I’ve learned to distrust them. I give every album I review a minimum of three listens in order to defeat my initial prejudice. I adopted this approach, I think, because I wanted to be fair, but also because sometimes my initial impression did not jive with a review I read or a recommendation I received. And it’s served me well, mostly. I would have never become a prog rock fan without the method, and that means I probably wouldn’t have found my way to jazz and much of the other esoteric music I know and love.

But I wonder if it serves me when I initial impression is to hate something. Because after three listens, I stop hating it – obviously familiarity does not normally breed contempt between music and me.

And I must say, when I first listened to this – in 2015, because supposedly I heard it thrice long ago – I thought it was terrible.

The opening to “Dance (Pt. 1)” reminds me of Flight of the Conchords. Seriously. And the rest of it sounds like the Stones trying and failing to do disco. The toasting doesn’t help.

“Summer Romance” is at least Stonesy. It’s not memorable Stones, but it’s at least not old guys trying to stay current.

The lyrics to “Send it to Me” have the sophistication of a Backstreet Boys song (“I don’t care who you are…”). In fact, many of Mick’s lyrics are noticeably awful on this record. Usually I don’t pay attention to Stones lyrics. But on this album, it’s hard not to. This is them attempting reggae.

“Let Me Go” is more traditional Stones but is even more forgettable than “Summer Romance.”

What I have long forgiven with “Brown Sugar” I have trouble forgiving with “Indian Girl.” I appreciate the marimba and Nietzsche’s kitschy mariachi “horns,” but it feels like a bit of parody of their earlier, more successful stabs at country. Also, what the hell is it doing on this album? Those lyrics, man. Those lyrics…

“Where the Boys Go” feels like the Stones’ stab at punk. Jagger even adopts an accent! Who is doing that deep, growling? For a band that is often viewed as a source of punk, this is pretty weak. Perhaps it indicates that that is misplaced. It’s super kitschy. I guess it’s supposed to be a parody or something. Who the fuck knows. Drugs are bad.

“Down in the Hole” is a slow soul number (or slow blues) featuring impassioned singing from Jagger and impassioned and excellent harmonica from someone other than Jagger. A blues musician I’d never heard of before. It’s the best song here, I think. It’s also utterly out of step with nearly everything else on the record.

“Emotional Rescue” I know, of course. It’s been played a ton. Jagger sings at the top of his range, let’s commend him for that. It’s odd that all the best or most famous songs are at the end of the record. Anyway, I’ve never been a fan of this. It does nothing for me.

“She’s So Cold” is probably the most famous song from the album. I like it more than the title track anyway. Just don’t listen to the lyrics.

Maybe I’m a sucker for soul ballads, but Richards’ “All About You” is practically the only thing I really, really like on this record. It has emotional resonance (shocking!) which I find lacking from everything else on the record.

So though my now excessive familiarity has softened the album for me at least somewhat, I think I’m going to stick with my initial observation: this is a mess. It’s half the band trying to expand its sound, like it supposedly did on Some Girls and Tattoo You – haven’t heard either in a decade or more – and half stabs at classic Stones, but lacking the songs to back it up. And Jagger’s lyrics are among the worst of his career.

Basically it feels like an outtakes album when you know why the band left those tracks off their records.


Read my reviews of music from 1980 or why not read all of my Rolling Stones reviews?

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