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Walking Through the Rolling Stones’ ‘Hackney Diamonds’

The iconic rock band releases their first full album of new material since their 2005 album, ‘A Bigger Bang.’

When the Rolling Stones dropped their latest album Hackney Diamonds, fans didn’t know if they should be excited or nervous.

Some old-school fans may have been content to leave the Stones’ discography as is —  a new album could only be fuel for critics to discredit the band. They might even suggest that the band’s enduring legacy is now overshadowed by an ill-fitting, over-produced comeback album.

Other fans were ecstatic at the opportunity for the British icons to reclaim their spot at the top of the rock-and-roll thrones, asserting themselves as royalty among the young rock acts today.

Whatever the standpoint, when it comes to making music, one thing remains certain: the Rolling Stones can’t get no satisfaction.

Hackney Diamonds is a modern-sounding rock album that steadfastly clings on to the rhythmic flavours that made the Stones famous so many years ago. It is the diverse project of a band that has effortlessly kept up with the times and enjoyed themselves every step of the way.

The band wastes no time easing themselves into the festivities. On the first track, “Angry,” the driving drums carve out space for Keith Richards to jump on-board with one of his signature blues riffs. Mick Jagger’s vocals ring out assertively, conversing back-and-forth with Richards’ guitar. The song ultimately leaves the listener with two questions: how could someone be that angry with Jagger? And, how has Jagger managed to keep his voice that sharp after all these years?

The follow-up track, “Get Close,” sees the Stones take a moment to catch their breath. Offering one of the more catchy choruses on the album, the bridge is certainly a highlight of the song. It features one of the more underappreciated instruments in rock music: the saxophone. If you listen ever so closely, you can hear the piano stylings of Elton John.

The album’s resident classic ballad is “Depending on You.” While instrumentally it’s quite subdued, the track serves to remind listeners of Jagger’s songwriting chops. Over the sounds of a distant slide guitar, Jagger reminisces about a past relationship that’s run its course. The lyrics are archetypal but potent: “our secrets sealed in our scars” and “now I’m just a story you tell, embroidering the truth with things you never felt.”

Fans are snapped back into the joy-ride as the cutting guitar sounds launch “Bite My Head Off.” The headbanging only requires a momentary pause as listeners learn that the hammering baseline is played by none other than Paul McCartney. It’s the twenty-first century collaboration that we all wanted, but never thought we’d get. And, just to sprinkle on a little extra dirt — this is the only song on the album donning an explicit lyric warning.

At this point in the album, listeners have been given a taste of both the fast and slow lanes of the album landscape. A choice must be made: keep the party going or take a calming, late night drive. 

If the party is to continue, listeners can dive head-first into the electric frenzy. The spiraling guitar riff of “Whole Wide World” creates the illusion of floating in and out of consciousness, while the repetitive lyrics of “Mess It Up” make the song sing-along friendly after just the first chorus.

On the calming pathway, “Dreamy Skies” is exactly the song one might listen to while star-gazing at a remote desert bonfire. The track couples excellently with “Tell Me Straight,” a soft melodic toe-tapper and the only song on the album featuring Richards on lead vocal.

Nearing the end of the album is the epic slow-burning ballad “Sweet Sounds of Heaven.” Clocking in at just over seven minutes, the tune sounds like it was taken directly from a bygone jazz bar. It features Jagger dueling the vocal stylings of Lady Gaga, with piano contributions from Stevie Wonder. The pair’s voices complement each other exceptionally, all the while Jagger manages to hold his own battling Gaga’s soaring vocal runs. 

Rolling Stone Blues” is the culminating and only non-original song on the album’s track listing. The blues classic was first recorded by Muddy Waters back in 1950. As the song responsible for the group’s namesake, it is the perfect ode to the Stones’ illustrious career. For a world-class band that shows no signs of stopping, the final track sure seems like the perfect farewell. 

Breezy Prochnau

Breezy is the 2023/24 Deputy Arts and Culture Editor. She's in the fifth year of her BSc in chemistry, minoring in philosophy. When she’s not working in the lab or writing papers, she enjoys surfing Spotify playlists to expand her eclectic music tastes or planning her next concert adventure.

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