Album Review: “Exile On Main Street” By The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones for the Shine A Light concert, 2008 - D. Farmaki / Youtube
The Rolling Stones’ 1972 album Exile On Main Street epitomized their badboy-rocker image even further, where the band, now English tax exiles, relocated to France to record the sleazy album. Unconsciously carrying the American roots influence that the band tried to shake off, Exile On Main Street was combination of articulate expression and realizations of a debauched lifestyle.
Tracks like “Tumbling Dice”, “Rocks Off”, and “Torn And Frayed”, among others, conveyed themes of sex, drugs, gambling, basically everything decadent about the rock n’ roll life, and the Stones expressed their frustrations with these tracks to a great degree. Even the vivid imagery on the album sleeve and innards pay homage to violence, the fueled rock star setting, and more drugs, taking the listener to a multi-dimensional experience by welcoming them to a visual wormhole of alienation and insanity.
Musically, the album is spliced into two sections, each led by the main material sources of the band, Richards and Jagger. Instrumentation was rather excessive in the record, with the guitars, organs, percussion, and piano parts all vying to be the top contender in belting out notes. Mick Jagger himself struggles to keep apace with the loud ruckus of the ensemble, sometimes muted by the overhead “noise” of the instruments. Still he tries to rock out, and Richards complements with his backing vocals for that classic Stones harmony. Lyrics are as scathing as ever, with a no-holds barred license, explicit themes flowing freely off of Jagger’s pipes with such fluidity.
Initially, the album was misunderstood by some fans and critics, citing the complexity of it all as too much, and even pretentious. But it was that intended mind-boggler that brought the beauty of the album to the table, a frisky and liberated take on rock music, especially with what the band was going through at the time. Exile On Main Street is a monumental record for sure, containing some of the Stones’ best tunes to date.