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Semi-detached Suburban Stones,
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This review is from: Between The Buttons (UK Version) (Audio CD)
The only song I knew from this album before I bought it was the superbly gutsy opener, 'Yesterday's Papers'. As a fan of the Brian Jones era, the prospect of an album containing eleven Stones songs I'd never heard before makes me wonder why I've waited so long to buy it. Perhaps my inexplicable delay could be down to the eternal critical dismissal of 'Between The Buttons' as the point when the Stones lost their way. But losing their way from what exactly? Giving their audience more of the same? They've certainly done that for the past 40 years, but it's worthwhile revisiting a period when the Stones were spreading their musical wings and absorbing what was happening around them rather than looking back to old bluesmen.
The Beatles, Kinks and Dylan appear to be the prime influences on 'Between The Buttons', with the recent release of 'Blonde on Blonde' evident in 'She Smiled Sweetly' and 'Who's Been Sleeping Here?'. But overall, I think this is the band's most recognisably ENGLISH album, their own answer to 'Revolver', if you like. And one element very present here that also permeated 'Satanic Majesties' is something that's conspicously absent from 'Beggar's Banquet' and 'Let It Bleed' - a sense of humour. It's present in 'Cool, Calm and Colllected' as the band speed up at the song's frenetic climax, and in Jagger's sign-off at the end of the Music Hall-meets-Dixieland Jazz closer, 'Something Happened To Me Yesterday', reminding the listener to wear something white if they go out at night, a witty touch that had no place during the band's headlong dive into Americana that coloured their musical palette from '68 onwards. They actually sound as if they're having fun and enjoying themselves on here - and why not?
As with The Beatles, the stresses and strains of touring had come to an end and the Stones were able to take stock, survey the landscape they'd created, finally enjoy the material fruits of their labours, and begin to use the album as a freeform vehicle for their sonic explorations. But Brian Jones needed decent songs to justify his elaborate instrumentation, and there are some decent songs on this album, the best perhaps being the marvellous 'Backstreet Girl' - and how this song isn't more well-known is a genuine mystery.
With one of the great 60s sleeves, capturing the band as five stoned wanderers in an atmospherically wintry London park, the contents are definitely worth checking out, especially the proper UK version without the two singles tagged-on. Any library of mid-60s British Pop, when the leading lights turned away from America and began to look closer to home for inspiration, is incomplete without this album to sit alongside the more celebrated examples of a brief but enduring sub-genre.