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The Independent Culture
Rolling Stones: Voodoo Lounge (Virgin, CD/LP/tape). First, the bad news. Bill Wyman is gone, and forgotten (he doesn't even get thanked in the sleevenotes). Keith Richards looks considerably older than the hills. And the Stones' last new album came out five years ago. Now the good news. The new bassist, Darryl Jones, is a punchy veteran of Miles Davis's band. The new co-producer is the career-reviving Don Was. And there are no disastrous experiments.

You can almost tell this from the titles. So Stonesy is the name Voodoo Lounge that it is hard to believe that they haven't used it before. Then there are 'You Got Me Rocking', 'Out of Tears', 'Thru and Thru' and 'Mean Disposition': all titles that could have been in Mick Jagger's notebook since 1967.

Not much new in the songs themselves, either. 'Love is Strong', the opener and first single, sets the tone: the greasiest of riffs, a slinky harmonica, and Jumping Jack purring: 'Love is strong / And you're so sweet / You make me mad / You make me weak.' It doesn't sound fantastic, but at least it sounds like the Rolling Stones, and that is a recommendation on its own.

The other tracks follow the usual recipe: a few boogies, some lazy R'n'B, two elegant ballads, two blub-into-your-bourbon songs sung by Keith, and a mild oddity - 'Moon is up', an echoey, tribal incantation.

The lyrics have attitude but no innovation. 'You Got Me Rocking' and 'Sweethearts Together': how boy feels about getting girl. 'Out of Tears': how boy feels about losing girl. 'Sparks Will Fly': what boy will do when he gets girl back. 'I Go Wild': all of the above. Still, the old dogs have some variations on old tricks. In 'New Faces', a second cousin of 'Lady Jane', Jagger worries about losing his love to a 'slip of a youth'. The hypocrite. 'Blinded by Rainbows' is an anti-terrorism folk-croon. There should be a clause in every record contract banning this genre. But the Stones' attempt is twice as human as Phil Collins' anaemic twin, 'We Wait and We Wonder'.

On side two, as they used to say in the days of vinyl, things run out of steam. The songs are workmanlike, but you won't be seeing them on any future compilations. Clocking in at 62 minutes, Voodoo Lounge could do without five of its 15 tracks. Nothing hits you between the eyes like . . . insert your favourite here.

The group's name has never been more appropriate. The Stones are just rolling, gathering neither moss nor momentum. Voodoo Lounge has no more surprises than a record by one of their copycats (Black Crowes, Primal Scream). I like it, but it's only rock'n'roll.

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