with affection, cynicism and both feet on the dance floor. When Mick Jagger sings, "Hear the voice of experience," in Dirty Work
's "Hold Back," he ain't kidding.
The Stones' music has sniffed at every trend from psychedella to disco, yet it's gone nowhere slowly; it's still basically the same warped Chicago blues they started with (especially on Dirty Work in "Had It with You"), plus a little reggae. Amid ups and downs, they've always known how to make a solid rock record in ways Mr. Mister or the Pet Shop Boys could never imagine. Yet every time the Stones get around to releasing an album, we expect them to do more to take us by surprise, make us laugh and gawk, tell us what the hell is going on.
Dirty Work does that, but only now and then; it's more like a product than a statement, although it's a little of both. With "Winning Ugly" and "Dirty Work," this is the Stones album for the yuppie era, defining and defying the complacent nastiness of the mid-1980s as "Gimme Shelter" caught the crumbling hopes of the late Sixties and early Seventies. "I wrap my conscience up,' Jagger spits out on "Winning Ugly." "I wanna win that cup and get my money, baby"; this tune won't be on the party tape at the business-school reunion. "Dirty Work" takes an extra ironic flip. Addressed to some hypothetical "you" who will "sit on your ass till your work is done" by someone else, the song runs, "You're a user, I hate ya." Is the song about the audience that depends on the Stones for its sleaze quotient? About the record company? Or the Stones themselves, well-documented users of people and substances?
I wish more of Dirty Work had such fine-tuned ambiguity. As a whole, the album's music and lyrics just don't stack up against Beggar's Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street or Undercover; it's solid, not spectacular. Each side feels incomplete; it sounds like it was made on deadline.
Maybe it was. Dirty Work, the first group album in the Stones' big-bucks CBS Records deal (following Jagger's misfire solo album, She's the Boss), openly advertises its corporate character with art-directed MTV colors on its cover, the band's first lyric sheet ever in the United States and a name coproducer, Steve Lillywhite, who joins Glimmer Twins Jagger and Richards. Lillywhite doesn't give the a