wed 10/08/2022

Albums of 2015: Keith Richards - Crosseyed Heart | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of 2015: Keith Richards - Crosseyed Heart

Albums of 2015: Keith Richards - Crosseyed Heart

Keef's got the heart of rock 'n' roll

'Crosseyed Heart': not a ho-hum disappointment

The year has seen great albums from the fringes – in English folk, Leveret’s beautiful instrumental debut New Anything, or Stick in the Wheel’s visceral, political, London stew of an album, From Here, and Sam Lee’s assured, exploratory second album, Fade in Time. In Jazz, there was the likes of Partikel’s String Theory on Whirlwind Recordings, and in World music, Songhoy Blues’ debut.

However, the frontrunners for this writer's favourites of the year were both rock icons of wildly different hue – Keith Richards’ Crosseyed Heart and The Fall’s Sublingual Tablet.

It took a while to settle on Keef’s return, 23 years after releasing his last solo album, Main Offender. The Fall’s latest, with the likes of “Pledge”, “Auto Chip”, “Facebook Troll” and “Stout Man”, contains work that is as good as any from the 30 Fall studio albums since Live at the Witch Trials. The epic motorik and multi-layered sheets of vocal noises that Mark E Smith coughs up and grinds out on the 10 relentless, hypnotic minutes of "Auto Chip" may well be the single greatest Fall recording.

The songs themselves are rich and multilayered, with hooks and riffs

Nevertheless, you have to weigh The Fall's work rate of roughly an album a year, with an EP thrown in for good measure (for January 2016, that’s the extreme noise terror of Wise Ol' Man, featuring seven new songs including a possibly precog riot-squad of a track, “All Leave Cancelled”). But when it comes to Keith Richards, the rarity of any new material (the last Stones album was a decade ago, the last good Stones album more than three decades past) and the shock that it was actually repeat-listen brilliant rather than a ho-hum disappointment, means that this Crosseyed Heart is the album that rules my 2015.

The brief acoustic lead-off that is the title track, a snatch of a demo in acoustic blues form, sets the tone of music that's almost home-made, and far from the glare of publicity or iconography. The songs themselves are rich and multilayered, with hooks and riffs and Richards' utterly distinctive timing when it comes to lead and rhythm guitar and all the spaces in between. It rolls, it bounces, it tells stories, and it pleads, makes jokes, simmers, shouts out and nails it down. “Robbed Blind” is half-Keith, half-Columbo, as he sets out on the trail of some double-crossers in the house of love and narcosis, while “Nothing On Me” is an aged outlaw's anthem to freedoms hard-won. The full reading of “Goodnight Irene” has a fine spectral quality, summoning up all the ghosts of that song and its folk-blues frontier milieu, while "Trouble" raves it up on the chorus and "Something for Nothing" proves to be a great call and response soul-blues. Album closer “Lover's Plea” is an outrageously melodramatic Stax-style paean, and like the earlier “Just a Gift” a truly warm-hearted rather than crosseyed tribute to love and friendship.

As I write, the news is that the Stones are in a London studio, recording their first album of this decade. If the Glimmer Twins can cut through the stuffing of all that history and expection, and get to the heart, like this cross-eyed heart does, then there'll be good reason to celebrate.

The songs are rich and multilayered with hooks and riffs and Richards's utterly distinctive timing when it comes to lead and rhythm guitar

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Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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