(Disclaimer: Those looking for a brief description of the album will find what their looking for in the "Album Overview" section. The section titled "Detailed Track Discussion" is meant only for those who want to read detailed descriptions of the songs, and they do not constitute the essence of this review. Lastly and most importantly, this review is not necessarily written by the point of view of a Rolling Stones fan.)
Overall Score: 4.5/5
Best song: "Under My Thumb"
Worst song: "High and Dry"
This is the first Rolling Stones album with 100 percent original material, and the moment couldn't have come too soon. They've hinted at it a few times in their previous two albums, but this is where they truly started to make significant strides into art-rock, which was an extremely pivotal step in their evolution. Brian Jones is usually considered the principal force behind that development, but credit for this album's songwriting belongs exclusively to the Glimmer Twins.
The first thing that must be mentioned about Aftermath is that it opens with “Paint it, Black,” the greatest song ever. (Well, it seems like the greatest song ever, as I'm listening to it playing.) It could have been a fairly standard heavy rock 'n' roll number, but Jones had spent a little bit of time hanging out with George Harrison. And anyone who spends time with Harrison seems to come back knowing about the magic and wonderment of the sitar. That instrument is to “Paint it, Black” little more than window dressing, but it lends it a very distinct flavor. What might have been a slightly bland song became exotic and unforgettable, and the instrument seemed more naturally interwoven into the song that it did even on “Norwegian Wood.” You've also got to appreciate Charlie Watts' incredible drumming as though he were creating thunder, and those incessant clicking noises going throughout. Everything about that song is brilliant, it seems.
“Under My Thumb” also would have been a normal song, but Jones had the idea to use a marimba. I suppose guitar purists would have been upset that they didn't let Keith didn't play that riff with his guitar, but I do love hearing that exciting new texture. It turned a catchy song into something even more memorable. If you thought “As Tears Go By” from December's Children (And Everybody's) was captivating, wait until you hear “Lady Jane.” That thing is so arresting that I sit through it absolutely motionless. Not only is the melody the sweetest and hookiest song that they have penned to this point, but those twinkling, finely textured acoustic guitars (and a dulcimer!) are utterly captivating. Making it even nicer is Jagger's lovely vocal performance, proving that he wasn't afraid to lend his fully-engaged chops to such a pretty song.
“Stupid Girl” is a straightforward rock song, but it's an exciting and catchy one with Jagger snarling off the lyrics just like a rock star should. “Doncha Bother Me” is a bona fide R&B song. Usually I don't care for those, but I do love hearing this rustic atmosphere, which is exactly what everybody expects from them when performing such songs. Let's just say they don't disappoint. “Think” is a little more pop-oriented and I enjoy listening to it, but I don't find it to be as wholly impressive as the others, especially since the melody is just a derivative of songs from the '50s. The melody of “High and Dry” is so unoriginal that it probably wasn't even ethical for Jagger/Richards to take a songwriting credit. I'm also wondering what prompted Watts to keep whooshing his cymbals like that... It's weird. On the other hand, Brian Jones' harmonica chugging and wailing throughout is undoubtedly cool.
This album also unexpectedly helped break an important time-limit barrier for rock songs, the 11-minute “Going Home.” It's basically a rock jam, the sort of things they reportedly performed live all the time. Listening to that song all the way through is a fine experience, but I get the impression that the only reason it went on so long was just for the sake of itself. ...It just keeps on going and going and going. For whatever reason, Jagger keeps coming up with some goofy ways to sing. Well, let's just say that not everything that ever came out of his mouth was a work of art!
Obviously, The Rolling Stones were still in their transitional period here, and it's easy to forgive them for the derivative R&B transgressions. After all, “Paint it, Black,” “Lady Jane,” “Under My Thumb,” and “I Am Waiting” are all first-class examples of early art-rock, and it's physically impossible for me to snub an album with such songs on it. And even most of the more purer rock songs, such as “Stupid Girl,” “Doncha Bother Me,” “Flight 505,” and “It's Not Easy” are leathery, atmospheric and rustic, and represent some of the finest examples of their early-style songs. That label doesn't come easy. It might not be a perfect album, but it's unquestionably one of the premiere Rolling Stones classics.
Paint it, Black A+
I was always confused about that comma, but according to the Wikipedia page, Keith Richards says it's not supposed to be there. Any-dang-way, this is one heck of a major masterpiece, as pretty much everybody in the world knows. But in case you've been living under a rock like I have from 1982-2001, then maybe you haven't heard this before! It begins with Brian Jones playing an ominous sitar riff... You probably could have guessed that he had spent some time hanging out with George Harrison. The sitar sticks with the song, which is very menacing and pounding. It gives it a very distinctly Eastern flavor that obviously wouldn't have been there without it. The vocal melody is pretty good, too, but the sitar and Watt's brilliantly thunderous drumming is everything to this song.
Stupid Girl A
Hey, that's pretty mean, Mick! But what an excellent *rock* song? It's nothing wholly unusual this time, it's just a riff-oriented rock song. But the melody is good, and the instrumentals are bold and wonderful. From the shaky organ in the background to another one of Watts' pounding drums. Mick Jagger's snarling singing fits the mean nature of the lyrics pretty well.
Lady Jane A+
This is so utterly captivating that I can sit through it and not want to move a muscle. Believe me, typing these words while it's playing is difficult to do! It's a gorgeously atmospheric song with a dulcimer as the main instrument. The melody is beautiful and Jagger's lead vocals are as sincere as they possibly could have been.
Under My Thumb A+
Geez, another pure classic for the ages. Since I'm apparently a Brian Jones fan, my favorite thing about this song is that marimba he uses to keep the groove going. But it's also undeniable that the relatively simple melody is extremely catchy. That fuzzy rhythm guitar going off in the background is another one of the brilliant things they did to the song... Yikes, this is good!
Doncha Bother Me A
Oh yeah, I almost forgot that The Rolling Stones were once a blues band! Oh... that wasn't in the distant past, either. Since pop-rock is my favorite genre, especially pop-rock with an artistic vein, this straight R&B song just ain't gonna register with me as well. But as far as bluesy stuff goes, Keith Richards deserves a guitar and a handshake for that impressive high-pitched riff he keeps on playing. And just in general, the song has excellent place, and that thick, leathery texture that they've always had in their best-of-times. So, yes, even this is brilliant.
I've got to say, the best thing about this song is that buzzing guitar going off in the background, especially in that bridge. Other than that I can't say I'm wholly caught up in this. The power in the instrumentals doesn't greatly impress me. This is another throwback to their R&B days, after all. Watts' drumming doesn't have that arresting texture. Not a lot of atmosphere in this, either. ...But I'm just nitpicking. I like listening to this song. The melody is catchy!
Flight 505 A-
Ian Stewart's extended piano introduction might seem frivolous at first glance, but I can't deny that's just the coolest thing ever. He plays a usual R&B sequence, but the feathery textures makes it unique and appealing. Quickly, another R&B throwback pops up, but it's surely one of their betters ones with bolder instrumentation. That buzzing guitar pops up in a few pivotal times... Oh, why do I like that instrument so much?
High and Dry B
I was never a great huge fan of this one, but that harmonica chugging away is like a tiny fire that I can't stamp out. The melody is basically as derivative R&B as it gets, but Jagger's rendition has plenty of personality in it. I'm not sure why Watts was riding that whooshing hi-hat like that! But whatever. Meanwhile, Keith sits in a corner and plays some pretty mean acoustic guitar licks.
It's Not Easy A-
This is probably less distinctive than the previous track, but it's not nearly as detached and disorienting. This is also a bluesy tune, and it's not a bad one. The melody is OK, but nothing greatly memorable. What we care about in the end is all the attitude, which they are continuing to do like nobody's business! The instrumentals keep chugging along, and nobody's gonna stop them. The more you listen to this, the more you begin to appreciate how reluctant anyone in the band seemed to want to show off. That really subdued lead guitar there does a few amazing things, but you have to turn the volume a little higher to hear it.
I Am Waiting A
Oh, I almost forgot the Rolling Stones were once an art-rock band... not too long ago. This is a very nice little pop song with an excellent, Beatles-esque melody. The verses section is a little bit flat, but the chorus is more powerful and it really soars. There's someone playing a dulcimer on this, but I would have confused that for an ordinary acoustic guitar if I didn't read that on Wikipedia. Anyway, that instrument is pretty!
Going Home B+
I guess since the Rolling Stones were big rock stars, they could get away with something as crazy as putting an 11-minute rock jam at the end of their album! For 1966, that was an extremely unusual thing... I've never been a huge fan of rock jams, but this one's quite good. It's not like most rock jams... it's very laid-back and nobody really does anything to show off. Well, except for Mick Jagger who keeps on singing for some reason. But the groove is still nice to sit back and soak up. Good work.
This is another bona fide classic from The Rolling Stones. Anybody who loves rock 'n' roll music must get this album pronto!!!
Read More Rolling Stones Reviews By Starcollector!
England's Newest Hitmakers (1964) | 12 X 5 (1964) | The Rolling Stones Now! (1965) | Out of Our Heads (1965) | December's Children (And Everybody's) (1965) | Aftermath (1966) | Between the Buttons (1967) | Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967) | Beggar's Banquet (1968) | Let it Bleed (1969) | Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out (1970) | Sticky Fingers (1971) | Exile on Main St. (1972) | Goats Head Soup (1973) | It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (1974) | Metamorphosis (1975) | Black and Blue (1976) | Love You Live (1977) | Some Girls (1978) | Emotional Rescue (1980) | Tattoo You (1981) | Undercover (1983) | Dirty Work (1986) | Steel Wheels (1989) | Flashpoint (1991) | Voodoo Lounge (1994) | Stripped (1995) | Bridges to Babylon (1997) | No Security (1998) | Live Licks (2004) | A Bigger Bang (2005) | Rarities 1971-2003 (2005) | Shine a Light (2008)