Emotional Rescue… Finally?


I’ve held off on rounding out the later-year catalog for much of my life, but when a junkie needs a new taste of something, he’ll go virtually anywhere to find it.

Working in a music store spoils you for all future music purchases. Even though you could probably afford a standard-issue CD anywhere, the pessimistic former-clerk knows that someone, somewhere is turning that very same disc in for money or store credit. SOMEWHERE! You just have to search for it.

Of course, there’s a strange bell curve involved with this strategy: an album has to be popular enough for tons of people to buy it, yet slightly less popular enough for some of that purchasing group to be willing to part with it. This is why you see so many copies of “Under the Table and Dreaming” at used CD stores.*

Long story short, “Emotional Rescue” has eluded my collection, because I’m just not curious enough to look past my cheapness and buy it new. However, thanks to buying many diapers with my credit card, I earned enough reward points to put toward a brand-spanking new copy — thank you, Monopoly money!

I was prepared for the worst. Even though my recent trek through the Ron Wood era had opened my eyes to some generally underrated albums (“Tattoo You”), I still hadn’t heard a single person in my life say, “You’ve never heard ‘Emotional Rescue?’ You are missing out on some hidden gems.” I’ve always kind of liked the title track, and I guess I saw them play “All About You” live during the 1997 tour, but that’s all I had to go on.

But as I said, when you need a fix, you go digging around in anyplace. And seeing as how “Rescue” was placed between two albums I liked very much, I figured it wouldn’t be crazy to expect a little residue to seep into this record.

Turns out, I was right. And kind of wrong. ”Emotional Rescue” is the “Goats Head Soup” of the Ron Wood era. It follows the peak of the era (“Exile” for “Goats,” “Some Girls” for “Rescue”). It finds the band yawning and rambling and stretching out songs that are little more than mantras into something resembling songs, but the style and sleaze nearly carries the day. And it may just be me dealing with lowered expectations, but as I got to “Summer Romance,” I felt pretty great about things. ‘This isn’t a complete embarrassment,’ I thought. “Indian Girl” and “Let Me Go” are pretty good, and I think “Where the Boys Go” features the first female backing vocals since (maybe) “Gimme Shelter.” I have played the hell out of the title track, and I’ve even managed to get through “She’s So Cold” — historically one of my most hated Stones tracks.

So with everything sounding fine, why am I kind of wrong? Because as I got through the album a few more times, I came to realize a glaring truth through another truth:

Truth #1 — The songs are not bad, but they’re not exceptional…

Truth #2 — …except for the fact that they are Rolling Stones songs.

When I realized this — strolling through Ralphs, buying bananas or something — it felt like a veil had lifted from my listening heart. Suddenly I felt I understood why people who didn’t like the Rolling Stones didn’t like the Rolling Stones. Why they rolled their eyes at a band that “just keeps pumping out albums and tours.”  They felt this band didn’t need to write good songs to sell albums, and they’re right. They had built up enough cache to coast with songs like “She’s So Cold” and “Dance (Pt. 1).” This may sound obvious to some, but it was a revelation to me.  ”Rescue” is a pretty lazy album in almost every sense of the words. There are few choruses, as I’ve mentioned earlier. The ideas presented don’t go much farther than “Girls” and “Getting girls.” “She’s So Cold” is just lesser “Shattered” (same guitar), while the song “Send It To Me” is literally “Neighbours,” a song that wouldn’t appear until “Tattoo You.” It’s strange that “Neighbours” should be so much better since it A.) appeared later, making it the derivative and B.) it’s got less lyrics.

Take a song like “Emotional Rescue,” far and away my favorite tune on the album, but still a good example of a by-virtue-of-being-the-Stones success. It’s a disco song (I’m not here to fight that fight). It’s a pretty good disco song, all things considered. It’s got a beat, singable “Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo” parts. It works. But not a remarkable disco song. It’s no “Staying Alive” or “Don’t Stop Til’ You Get Enough,”** or even “Miss You.” It’s “Miss You (Pt.2).” Yet I love it, maybe even more than “Miss You (Pt. 1),” and the only reason for that love has to be the fact that it’s the Rolling Stones performing it (and that I like “Hoo-hoo-hoo” songs). If any other band had written it, would I subjugate my 2-year-old to an evening of repeat listens? Probably not.

…ACTUALLY, that’s a little harsh. “Emotional Rescue” — the song — is pretty great for the fact that it’s weird in a number of ways, and that should keep social services off my back. First off, it’s an unabashedly trashy disco song. Secondly, for a guitar-based band, there is decidedly little guitar in there. It’s almost all bass, which technically counts as an artistic stretch out of the comfort zone. Then there’s the lyrics/story of the song, which near as I can figure takes us through the “saving/stalking” of a girl by an undead dance-lover. I might be reading too much into those “Hoo-hoo-hoo’s,” but they remind me of the “Woo-woo’s” of “Sympathy for the Devil,” and that gets me thinking in the direction of the black arts. He sings about coming to her in the middle of the night (“so stealthy, so animal quiet”), and as I listen to the tune for what must be the 20th time in two days, I keep marrying this feeling with the images of a girl “locked in a rich man’s home” (like a castle), and coming up with the idea that this story is a mishmash of “Dracula.” This makes Mick Jagger the world’s first disco vampire. If I had the time, I would marry that song to images over Coppola’s “Dracula” movie and look like an idiotic genius.


This only gets more support with the third element of the list, which is Jagger’s performance of the final verse. It’s virtually a throw away, and he (takes a chance, I guess…) and talks like a drugged up blood sucker for the “Yessss, you will be miiiiiine.” It’s not singing, it’s a kind of talk-singing, and it’s pretty silly while being more than a little creepy. When he gets to that run of “You will be mine, you will be mine all mine” repeat, it sounds like hypnosis… like what Dracula has! And even though he claims to be the girl’s “knight in shining armor” coming to her rescue, you don’t trust it for a second. It’s all what she wants to hear in order for this Kindred undead to claim another. And really, what’s the difference between an over-sexed sex machine and a vampire searching for his next victim? Besides the blood drinking, of course?

ALL IN ALL: “Emotional Rescue” is a C album that sounds enough like a band I like to feel like a B. At the very least, I’ll always have this album to thank for the title track and that lame enlightenment about non-fans. That was worth the pseudo money.

*It doesn’t just stop at DMB either. If you want to know what happened to 90′s rock, it lives in the bargain bin of every single used CD store. The explosion of technology mixed with spending cash and rash decisions on the part of the purchasers means you can get Lenny Kravitz’s “Mama Said” for a freakin’ dollar.

**Another “stunning” revelation I’ve had into this era of the Stones is the theory that Mick Jagger around this time decided he wanted to be Michael Jackson. I’ve always wondered what happened to the dance moves and performance you see in “Gimme Shelter” that gave way to the weird pointing and butt shaking of everything since “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rolling Stones.” And I think this is the key. It explains the falsetto singing, the pull toward pop dance, nearly everything except for some horrible silk shirts. He never did a crotch grab and he didn’t wear a hat (as a dance prop, anyway), but it’s pretty close.


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