Hysterical reports to the contrary, the most notable thing on A Bigger Bang isn’t the Bush-bashing ”Sweet Neo Con,” an intentionally crude grinder with lyrics a little too 2003 to have much bite. The real news flash is that the Stones have finally accepted that they truly are grown men. For once, they don’t seem concerned with competing with pop stars a third their age; instead of playing it slick, they’ve made their dirtiest, most homemade-sounding album since Some Girls. And the strongest tracks are the slowest and most adult: the spooked-out ”Laugh, I Nearly Died,” Keith’s honky-tonk-noir ”This Place Is Empty,” the arch country tune ”Biggest Mistake.” On ”Back of My Hand,” they sound like the tattered bluesmen they’ve long threatened to become. But like every one of their albums since 1981’s Tattoo You, Bang also bogs down in autopilot rockers (”Rough Justice” sounds like a sped-up ”Mixed Emotions”), soggy ballads, and the latest dispatches from Mick’s aging-jetsetter life. The bang is hardly bigger, but for once the Stones seem to realize it doesn’t have to be.
A Bigger Bang