Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Rolling Stones: Dirty Work [Rolling Stones, 1986]
Dreaming of solo glory, Mick doesn't have much time for his band these days--just plugged into his Stones mode and spewed whatever he had to spew, adding lyrics and a few key musical ideas to tracks Ron and Keith completed before the star sullied his consciousness with them. And I say let him express himself elsewhere. For once his lyrics are impulsive and confused, two-faced by habit rather than design, the straightest reports he can offer from the top he's so lonely at, about oppressing and being oppressed rather than geopolitical contradiction. In the three that lead side two, always playing dirty is getting to him, as is his misuse of the jerks and greaseballs and fuckers and dumb-asses who clean up after him, yet for all his privilege he's another nuclear subject who's got no say over whether he rots or pops even though he'd much prefer the former. Especially together with the hard advice of "Hold Back," these are songs of conscience well-known sons of bitches can get away with. Coproducer Steve Lillywhite combines high-detail arena-rock with back-to-basics commitment and limits the melismatic affectations that have turned so much of Mick's late work in on itself. Let him have his own life and career, I don't care. What I want is the Stones as an idea that belongs to history, that's mine as much as theirs. This is it. A