For most of their career, the Rolling Stones have engaged in a tug of war, pulling their music toward the rough edges of libido-rock at one moment and yanking it in the direction of straightforward pop the next. This time around, they've chosen to concentrate on spit rather than polish, giving A Bigger Bang
-- their first studio recording since 1997's Bridges to Babylon
-- a welcome dose of sweaty energy. Songs like the harmonica-drenched blues strut "Back of My Hand" hark back to the band's earliest days interpreting Willie Dixon and Howlin' Wolf classics, while others -- most notably the ready-to-rumble riff-fest "Rough Justice" -- feel like Mick
, and company have re-Exiled
themselves on Main Street
. They seem well aware of the fact that naysayers will launch slings and arrows their way for continuing their long, strange trip past the four-decade mark -- and address it cleverly on the honky-tonk smirk-fest "Oh No, Not You Again." That tune, however, is about the only concession to age on A Bigger Bang
. Jagger seems hell-bent on proving he's still able to carry off the sneering guttersnipe role he played for "Street Fighting Man," and does so with alacrity on the much-discussed "Sweet Neo Con," one of the Stones' rare forays into social commentary. He's a little less believable as the lithe lothario -- "She Saw Me Coming" is the aural equivalent of Harrison Ford continuing to play leading-man roles opposite 20-something ingénues -- but that's really a small speed bump under the wheels of this musical machine. The machine has been chopped and channeled for maximum efficiency -- with emphasis on the revivified collaborative spark between Jagger and Richards -- on A Bigger Bang,
which ultimately delivers exactly what its title promises.