Thursday, August 16, 2007

No. 108: Aftermath

Band: The Rolling Stones
Album: Aftermath
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: "Aftermath" catches the band at the height of their British Invasion-spawned success. The record has some of their best early stuff including (on the U.S. version) the incomparable "Paint it, Black" and (on both versions) the sexist classic "Under My Thumb."
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Because it was 1966, it's hard to say that the album is great. There are great songs, but the Stones were a singles band at that point. Moreover, the difference between the U.S. and U.K. versions are stark, so it's hard to even rate it.
Best song: The best song that appears on both versions is either "Lady Jane" or "Under My Thumb." The U.S. version has "Paint It, Black" and that one is among the band's best songs.
Worst song: "Think" stinks.
Is it awesome?: It's pretty good, but I'd still stick with the singles box.

I really wish The Believer -- One of McSweeney's periodicals -- put their stories online, because the music issue had an excellent essay on the Stones, the Beatles and each band's relationship to American counter culture in the late '60s. It has little to do with this album, but I just wanted to point it out. If you can find the 2007 Believer Music Issue, buy it. It's got great stuff in there.


There aren't a million ways to say it: "Aftermath" is a decent album. Like a lot of Stones records, there are a few good songs, but there's also a lot of "white guys covering blues songs and/or writing their own blues riffs" on there. It's trying to have to listen to the whole thing. Undiscovered album tracks are few and far between on Stones records.

"Aftermath" is the exemplification of this. The U.S. version (the one I have) starts "Paint It, Black" and also features "Stupid Girl," "Lady Jane" and "Under My Thumb" as the next three songs. That's it for good songs on the album; "Aftermath" might as well be a four-song EP. The Stones' singles are great, but these non-single album tracks are trying. They're bland blue collar rock.


Not enough, I think, has been made about the chauvinist nature of some of two of the Stones' classic songs on this record. "Stupid Girl" in and of itself is pretty awful, lyrically, as it basically posits that any woman who cares about, well, anything, is a stupid girl. The underlying notion in the song is one that's been prevalent in our culture for a while -- a man who is opinionated is "opinionated," while an opinionated woman is a "bitch."

"Under My Thumb," of course, is probably worse. You can extrapolate the personality traits of "Stupid Girl" and believe it's about a specific woman; "Under My Thumb" takes on feminism at its heart. The want for control is pretty evident in song:

"It's down to me
The difference in the clothes she wears
Down to me, the change has come,
She's under my thumb"

At other points in the song, Jagger calls this woman "a siamese cat," a "squirmin' dog," and "the sweetest pet in the world." Jagger finally praises her for "The way she talks when she's spoken to."


It's too bad, too. The guitar riff to "Under My Thumb" is pretty awesome and Jagger's sneer is as good as it gets on the track. Too bad it's "Stranglehold" ten years earlier.

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