Magazine article The Spectator

Antique Antics

Magazine article The Spectator

Antique Antics

Article excerpt

First Oasis, now Bob Dylan, Portishead, the Rolling Stones. Disparate acts indeed, but with one important thing in common: they want your money. The new album season is upon us again, and suddenly we find out what all our favourite acts have been up to in their long years of silence: Most bands now take so long to record an album that it always comes as a surprise when the new album sounds so much like all their previous albums. Bob Dylan's first set of new material for seven years is just what you would expect it to be, down to the 16minute jam session at the end that could sensibly have been 15 minutes shorter. Portishead's agonising new effort was described by one critic this week as 'a companion piece' to their first album, i.e. it sounds exactly the same. But if there is one band that believes in delivering precisely what is expected, without conscious variation or an ounce of introspection, it is surely the Rolling Stones. No band, it seems, wants your money more. And if ticket sales for their latest gargantuan world tour are anything to go by, they are getting it too.

They are, of course, Very Old. Even their youngest member, 50-year-old Ron Wood, now seems fantastically ancient. Almost all bands lose members from time to time, but Bill Wyman became perhaps the first prominent musician of the rock era to announce his retirement. Their immense age seems further magnified by Mick Jagger's dauntless determination to go on strutting around like a hormonally bombarded 17-year-old, even though he looks older than Keith Richards.

Their 757th album Bridges to Babylon (Virgin) - their first since their last one, which no one can now remember - is a suitably efficient piece of work which few people will ever hear. No one buys Rolling Stones records any more except the hardy faithful, who, like Radio Two listeners, are gradually dying of old age. …

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