Soul Survivor

Listening all the way through to the end of Exile on Main St. leaves me with that ‘making it home at 5 a.m.’ feeling of exhaustion. As if I, like the Rolling Stones, have just run a gauntlet of joyless debauchery, and I congratulate myself, cheerlessly, on surviving it. The Rolling Stones, between the lot of them, have hit so many levels of rock bottom throughout their ongoing adventures: jail, death, carnage, you name it, but every time it looked like they were down and out they somehow got back up. Yet somehow, none of their low points ever seemed to provoke a crisis of soul searching. No one found Jesus or came back from rehab talking New Age psychobabble or cried on TV while blaming their shitty behavior on childhood hardship. Which is both surprising and weirdly admirable, this ability to shrug off the hard times and soldier on. Exile on Main St. is the closest they’ve ever come to a “rock bottom” record. It’s hardly self-searching or even self-aware, but it reveals the torn and frayed sinews of a group suffering from too many miles on the road, too many artificially long nights, too many deaths, too much sex with strangers, too much paranoia, too much time trapped together like a chain gang, too much exile. It sounds like the final hours of a very long party.

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