Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

The Rolling Stones – Living in a Ghost Town

All the clubs have been closed down…


[Video]
[6.20]

John Seroff: If you’re looking for proof that these are truly end times, you couldn’t do much worse than the Rolling Stones topping the singles charts in 2020. Even more shockingly, their surprise-drop, social-distancing anthem “Ghost Town” is actually pretty good: Mick’s digitally-tweaked voice conveys age, longing, loss and enigma as well as he ever has, while Wood’s driving guitar line compels the whole thing forward with zombified honky-tonk energy. Light touches of dub and harmonica give it a breath of soul and the lyrics avoid any particularly dumb missteps. Could this echo from the crypt portend the third (fifth? eighth?) resurrection of the Stones as a culturally meaningful touchstone for yet another generation? I mean, of course not; it’s not really the end of the world. Right?
[8]

Alfred Soto: They’re pros: it boasts proper verses, choruses, and outros. Of course these gnarled Ents didn’t need to release it — that’s not the point. If “Living in a Ghost Town” has one, it’s in the mixing board-goosed Mick Jagger’s vocal attack and Ron Wood’s above average guitar interjections. Professionalism, kids. The band sounds miffed in a pre-chorus in which they recall a time when cymbals crashed and saxophones blared — better for Jagger to suggest life is emptier without million-dollar gigs than whatever Uruguayan model left him for more spritz in the Aperol. “You can look for me and I can’t be found,” he stage whispers. Whether it’s COVID-19 or Studio 54, what’s changed?
[6]

Juan F. Carruyo: Well, they went away and did it. The Stones wrote a song about the pandemic and — lo and behold! — it’s a decent effort. It favors the cocktail blues sounds they’ve been perfecting ever since Wyman left yet Charlie Watts has been replaced by computerized lounge readymades. As it’s more of a groovy mood piece, the guitars serve only as punctuation. So, it’s Mick’s show through and through and he turns in a great performance: he sounds old and tired, his timing can barely keep with the beat, and his voice clips during the lightly rousing chorus. Slightly moving. 
[6]

Oliver Maier: Hardly a striking meditation on life under lockdown, and not a track that demands replays, but better than it looks on paper, and somehow sloppier than one would expect from a band in the Stones’ position. In a good way! The drums noticeably struggle on the chorus, for instance, and yet — particularly in contrast to the tightly wound, reggae-ish verses — it adds to the charm. Jagger, as ever, is not particularly concerned with profundity; he just wants to shout stuff. A [6] if you pretend that the line at the end of verse 2 is “stuck in a world without ham,” which is what it sounds like.
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: Gonna tell my kids this was X Ambassadors.
[5]

Thomas Inskeep: Their best original single in years; reminds me a bit of “Love is Strong” and a bit of “Miss You.” It moves, man. Produced really well.
[7]

Tobi Tella: Remarkably smooth for a band this far into their career, it’s a little on-the-nose for me to fully embrace, but there’s a certain delirium to it that feels very apt for our collective current mental state.
[6]

Edward Okulicz: I can’t decide whether Mick Jagger’s loose, almost rhythm-agnostic delivery is powerful or slightly annoying. It suits the subject matter, but on such a precise groove it spoils the party even as it makes the scene. Mind you, wouldn’t a ghost actually like living in a ghost town?
[6]

Scott Mildenhall: Jagger sounds not so much the ghost of himself as a future historical linguist’s physiology-based recreation, while the gang vocals could be from a library. More than anything, it’s the latter that sink this. Performing to a karaoke backing track of your own song before anyone has even heard it is quite a feat, but not an advisable one. The dubby touches and harmonica build towards texture, yet it all ends up unbecomingly naff.
[5]

Alex Clifton: Vintage Stones in the best way, arriving at exactly the right time. Groundbreaking? Not in the slightest, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a stay-at-home anthem that will no doubt be screamed in arenas across the world once the Stones are back on tour, which I hope is sooner rather than later. As a sidenote, I would love a remix of this with Harry Styles, because I am desperate to hear what he and Mick sound like together, but we can hold out hope for that in a post-COVID world.
[8]

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