Their most divisive album …
… and understandly so. When Their Satanic Majesties Request (funny grammatical error) is bad, it’s bad, and the worst tracks here are worse than anything on any of their other albums from their golden period (from 1966 – 1972): the vocal treatments to Bill Hyman’s voice on “In Another Land” succeed only in making it unlistenable (one of those “psychedelic trips for people who have never been on a psychedelic trip” type tracks that were in abundance at this time) (the band will take that trick and use it sparingly on “Rocks Off” years later); “Sing This All Together (See What Happens)” is 8-minutes that never should have happened. Yeah, some of the gimmicks like the flies buzzing at the 1:28 mark of “Sing This All Together” and that alien thing at the 2:28 mark of “2,000 Light Years From Home” are just that – gimmicks. And I should mention that the people who love the Stones for Mick Jagger’s upfrontness won’t get that here, since that seems like a common complaint.
BUT when Their Satanic Majesties Request is good, it’s assuredly good. “She’s A Rainbow” is the obvious cut, the album greatest melody and a lot of things happening in the background that ensure that the track never gets old (horns, strings, backing vocals). Nicky Hopkins and Charlie Watts’ drumrolls make sure “The Lantern”’s verses never get stuck while you’re waiting for the chorus to hit (which has another good melody); “2,000 Man” is a good melody in the verse and another in the chorus smashed together without much thought and somehow works despite that (perfect amount of echo on the drums, too); “Citadel” is a good vocal melody, but it’s all about the guitar hook, the only track that really qualifies as psychedelic rock; the vocal bits of “Sing This All Together” is the album’s drunken singalong (having John Lennon and Paul McCartney didn’t hurt) and the instrumental bits is the album’s drunken dancealong; Mick Jagger’s singing might sound awkward on “On With the Show,” but it fits in perfectly on “2,000 Light Years From Home” and I swear Brian Eno absorbed “Gomper” fully (see “For Your Pleasure”). That was a lot of instances of the words “good melody” if you didn’t notice, because this album is packed full of them.
I’ve seen a lot of people write this off as the Rolling Stones’ jumping on the Beatles’ bandwagon with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but I feel it’s more out of a sense of obligation than anything else because they’re both the capital-P-capital-S Psychedelic Statement from the world’s two biggest bands – as usual, sonically, there’s not much that’s the same here. But, if we are to compare them, I’ll just come right out and say that, if I were about to go on a drug-fueled jaunt, between the two, I’d take this one any day.RollingStone’s Jon Landau (who doesn’t bother with a single mention of “She’s a Rainbow” anywhere to give you a sense of how much his unfavourable review really spoke of the album) mentions that “The Beatles production is often so “perfect” that it sounds computerized.Sgt. Pepper really does sound like it took four months to make.“ Yeah, hello, when we’re talking about psychedelic rock albums, this isn’t a good thing. Me, I want sounds and I want colors when I want drugs – and this has both of those.
A couple of closing things that I couldn’t fit anywhere else: all four members of the Beatles can be found on the cover and that’s a cool easter egg. And one year later, the Stones ran into a lot of trouble because they had a song called “Sympathy for the Devil,” and the fact that this one’s title was forgotten so fast goes to show how underrated it was at the time.
(A really high) B+