The Rolling Stones performing at Summerfest in Milwaukee in 2015Jim Pietryga, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In ‘Tell Me Straight’, the moody and solemn tenth track of Hackney Diamonds, Keith Richards sings: “Is my future all in the past?” This record is clearly concerned with legacy, a sentiment echoed in ‘Whole Wide World’, which opens with a nostalgic riff before Jagger laments: “The streets I used to walk on / Are full of broken glass.” It is in these moments that the album shines brightest.

The reference to broken glass is also a nod to the album’s title. “Hackney diamonds” is old London slang for glass shards left behind after a robbery. The somewhat on-the-nose album cover references this, adding a cliche emotional slant by depicting a heart made of broken glass.

“This record is clearly concerned with legacy”

Meanwhile, the marketing juxtaposed these references to violence with a promise to fix things. In an August edition of the Hackney Gazette, an ad for “Hackney Diamonds, Specialists in Glass Repair” appeared. With the “i” in “Diamonds” dotted by a miniature version of the Stones’ iconic logo, the ad read: “Our friendly team promises you satisfaction. When you say gimme shelter, we’ll fix your shattered windows.” This references three of the band’s singles: ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’, ‘Gimme Shelter’, and ‘Shattered’. The company also claimed to have been established in 1962, the year that the band formed.

The album was teased in an advert in the Hackney GazetteTwitter (@Simon_Harper)

All of this plays into the careful, self-aware narrative of this album release. The Stones are the original rockstars; they know that everybody knows who they are. This is a double-edged sword since there are two crushing and contradictory demands pressing on them: to feed into the nostalgia of old school rock’n’roll and to create something original and inspiring. “Is my future all in the past?” encapsulates this tension. Is the future of the Stones’ “sound” simply their old sound? Or is there something new to come?

Hackney Diamonds is the first studio album of original material that the Stones have released in 18 years. Released on 20 October 2023, the album hits 48 minutes and boasts 12 songs with features including Paul McCartney, Elton John, Lady Gaga and Stevie Wonder.

The music video for 'Angry' features Euphoria actress Sydney SweeneyYouTube (The Rolling Stones)

It opens with ‘Angry’, spilling out with a simple and catchy riff and Mick Jagger’s whiny demand: “Don’t get angry with me.” The music video features Euphoria actress Sydney Sweeney jamming to the song as she is driven through Los Angeles, with the band members singing from billboards along the route. Its sound is undeniably in line with the Stones’ catalogue and highlights their comfortable position as rock’n’roll legends.

This sense of comfort explodes into sneering vehemence in ‘Bite My Head Off’, where Jagger repeatedly snarls: “Why you bite my head off?” “I got the whole world to worry about,” he snaps, “You think I’m your bitch / I’m fucking with your brain.” With a delicious riff and rapid rhythm, the song is arrogant and wild, building into a nostalgic guitar solo while McCartney’s bass playing blends in seamlessly.

The groovy bassline of disco track ‘Mess It Up’ is complemented by the rhythmic drumming of the late Charlie Watts. Watts also features on the next track, ‘Live By The Sword’, making the song work with Elton John despite the somewhat disjointed lyrics. “If you live like a whore, better be hardcore” is eye-roll inducing, but the following line: “If you live by the clock, well, you’re in for a shock,” suits the sense of mortality that haunts the record.


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In bluesy ‘Dreamy Skies’, Jagger flips from softer to stronger vocals as the song progresses. The result is a sweet push-and-pull rhythm, echoing his desire to escape from the “sprawl” and reach “a place where no one can call”. ‘Depending On You’ might have a more saccharine pop-style melody but its lyrics also capture this sense of finality and saying goodbye. Jagger seems to sigh: “Now I’m too young for dying and too old to lose,” imbuing the song with poignancy.

The final track is their version of Muddy Waters’ ‘Rollin’ Stone’ (modified to ‘Rolling Stone Blues’). This alludes to the birth of their band name and the birth of rock from blues and is an emphatically nostalgic final note.

Few bands can boast that they encapsulate what is now known as classic rock. The Rolling Stones know they can. This album is a confident, paradoxical piece – nostalgic, as it makes the old sound new again. If this is the last album that the Rolling Stones have to offer, it’s a triumphant way to go out.