The Rolling Stones' freshest creation, "Hackney Diamonds," is like that seasoned bar band in a slick suit—still rockin', but not exactly breaking new ground. It's the musical equivalent of finding a crumpled $20 bill in last year's winter coat: familiar, a bit worn, but you're not complaining.
Produced by the one and only Andrew Watt, this album feels less like a rebellious artistic adventure and more like a well-dressed sales pitch strategically timed for holiday splurges and TV commercial slots. Mick Jagger, once the poster child for rebellious spirit, now struts through the first half like a misunderstood rock 'n' roll diva. Tracks like "Angry" and "Bite My Head Off" sound more like Mick trying to be edgy than actually pulling it off.
The latter part of "Hackney Diamonds" seems tailor-made for plugging toothpaste or luxury cars. It lacks the raw grit of the Stones' glory days, but hey, Mick's distinctive voice—now with a sprinkle of technological magic—is still a marketing dream. Producer Watt, usually found rubbing elbows with the cool kids, tries to squeeze the Stones into a contemporary mold that's about as comfortable as skinny jeans on a retiree. The result? Polished, but as soulless as a robot's playlist.
For the first nine tracks, the album sticks to the script. Then, just as you're about to doze off in the sea of perfection, Keith Richards steps up in "Tell Me Straight," offering a refreshing break from the pursuit of flawlessness. The grand finale, "Sweet Sounds of Heaven," features Lady Gaga and Stevie Wonder and dives deep into topics like nationalism, poverty, and mortality. It's a genuine moment in a sea of bravado attempts earlier on.
Now, let's talk about options. There are more versions of "Hackney Diamonds" than there are conspiracy theories about Elvis. Marketing geniuses might be thrilled, but as a regular consumer, it's like being handed a menu in a foreign language—overwhelming and borderline excessive. With so many choices, it feels less like an artistic masterpiece and more like a stealthy heist on our wallets.
If this is the Stones' swan song, it's not exactly the grand finale we expected. Once the epitome of sex, danger, and unfiltered rock 'n' roll truth, they now seem more like your favorite uncle attempting a TikTok dance. Recommended only for die-hard Stones fans and those who still have a classic rock mixtape in their car.
Released October 20, 2023.
CD + Blu-ray, CD, Various Vinyl Editions, and Digital Download, Also available on Streamings Services.