Bridges to Babylon (1997)
Conventional wisdom says that old acts should not chase trends. What’s trendy now will be dated in five years, but if the act has lasted long enough to become an old act, then their old sound must be timeless. "Bridges to Babylon" is actually a good argument for trend-chasing. Yes, trends from 1997 sounded horribly dated five years later, but in 2023, they sound retro, in the same way that trends from 1972 sound retro. Yes, old is best, but everything gets old eventually.
Bridges to Babylon chased trends; that was criticized at the time, but those criticisms seem shortsighted now. Especially when compared to the other albums on this list, Bridges to Babylon’s strength is how it’s willing to try new things.
It’s baby steps, though. Bridges to Babylon begins with "Flick The Switch," a generic rocker that holds the distinction of being the first Rolling Stones song on which they sound old. Sounding old can work, but "Flick The Switch" doesn’t because it is trying too hard to show these youngins how it’s done.
The second track, "Anyone Seen My Baby?" is a 180-degree turnaround improvement. It’s a little overproduced, but it’s pretty exciting to hear a hip-hop sample in a Rolling Stones song. They hedged their bets putting the bars by Biz Markie low in the mix, so it provides texture while avoiding a really awkward moment.
"Gunface" and "Might As Well Get Juiced" hit you with their originality. They sound nothing like The Rolling Stones, more like progressive EDM stalwarts Underworld, and they’re the funniest moments on these five albums. Even if they don’t work for you, you’ve got to appreciate the miracle of the Rolling Stones making music that sounds modem in the 90s.
But then there’s "Already Over Me," and "Always Suffering," which are the same song twice. It’s an okay song, but it was better when it was called "Fool To Cry."
The nadir is "You Don’t Have To Mean It." Keith Richards introduced reggae to the Stones' repertoire in 1986 with "Too Rude," the highlight from the lost years. "Too Rude" is a loving homage to the genre from an outsider, but "You Don’t Have To Mean It" is the aural equivalent of an offensive rastaman Halloween costume that comes with a giant inflatable doobie.