“I love my sugar but I love my honey too / I’m a greedy mother, you don’t know what to do,” moans Richards during the first track of his latest release, Crosseyed Heart. “Ooh, she’s so sweet but she drives me round the bend / I go round the corner and find another friend / I got a cross-eyed heart.” Acoustic blues accompanies Richards until he states: “Alright, that’s all I got,” and launches into “Heartstopper,” which proves to the listener that regardless of Richards’ age, he can still rock.
The record is greatly comprised of blues and rock ‘n’ roll, with a few exceptions, one of them being the ska “Love Overdue” — which might seem far-fetched for a musician who is credited with pretty much inventing a genre alongside the Beatles, but Richards seems as at-home in this tropical-flavoured track as he ever did while cranking out rock in the ‘60s.
Although grounded by guitar-driven rock, Crosseyed Heart delves into several genres, including straight-out pop during “Something For Nothing,” a track that’s probably the poppiest thing Richards has ever come up with. (The chorus is literally two or three back-up singers repeating “something for nothing” four times.) However, Richards’ presence resonates throughout the record, and if there’s one particular thing that’s clear, it’s that he derives great pleasure from making music of any genre. This pleasure (I’m not going to call it happiness, because at times it seems as though he isn’t happy, but is rather embracing a kind of self-awareness as he ages) is ever-present.
“Nothin’ on Me” sounds like a late-’80s jam track. It’s probably the grooviest track on the record, and seems like the appropriate thing to have playing in a car while road tripping across America wearing nothing but denim, cowboy boots, and a pair of aviators. “Suspicious” is a ballad that seems a bit too cheesy to be authentic, but its saving grace is the way Richards delivers verses in that raspy growl that passes for his voice nowadays. However weary he might sound, it should be noted that Richards sings exceptionally well throughout the entire record; sure, he might have a much lower voice now than he did in his youth, and it might be gravelly as hell, but the man can still hit just about every note he sets out to hit.
I’m sure many years of cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs are at least partially responsible for this, but if I didn’t know that Keith Richards is English and white, I wouldn’t have guessed it by listening to Crosseyed Heart. The track “Substantial Damage” sounds like something that should be blasting out of every pickup and Camaro haulin’ ass out of, into, or around Texas. There’s funk and traditional blues all over this thing, and if it proves anything, it’s that despite Richards’ age, he has the energy and rowdiness of a jackhammer.
Crosseyed Heart proves that, despite a literal lifetime of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, Keith Richards is as lively and passionate as he ever was — and his music reflects that.