The pair of songs, “Gotta Get A Grip” and “England Lost,” were written in response to what Jagger calls “confusion and frustration with the times we live in.” According a statement that accompanied the release, the music was born of the “anxiety, unknowability of the changing political situation.” It’s one that he fears won’t improve in the near future. “We obviously have a lot of problems. So am I politically optimistic? …No.”
The bluesy, ominous tracks—with a throbbing rhythm section and raw, urgent vocals—are reminiscent of some of the Rolling Stones‘ darker work in the late 1960s, another time of social unrest and government tumult.
“England Lost” takes its inspiration from a soccer match where an English team did exactly that, but Jagger uses the game as a metaphor for the nation’s place in a post-Brexit world stage. “It’s about a feeling that we are in a difficult moment in our history. It’s about the unknowability about where you are and the feeling of insecurity. That’s how I was feeling when I was writing. It’s obviously got a fair amount of humor because I don’t like anything too on the nose but it’s also got a sense of vulnerability of where we are as a country.”
“Gotta Get a Grip,” includes lyrics that seem particularly barbed in the wake of Donald Trump’s political ascent: “Everybody’s stuffing their pockets, everybody’s on tape/The news is all fake/ Let ’em eat chicken and let ’em eat steak/ Let ’em eat s—, let ’em eat cake.” Taking on xenophobia and over-the-top opulence, his sneer recalls Roger Waters or David Byrne at their most caustic.
A “reimagined” version of the song features the British rapper Skepta, and “Gotta Get a Grip” has four additional remixes by Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, Matt Clifford, Seeb and Alok.
Jagger first wrote the tracks in April and wanted to share their messages immediately, rather than wait to complete the lengthy album-making process. “Doing a whole album often takes a long time even after finishing it with all the record company preparations and global release set up. It’s always refreshing to get creative in a different fashion and I feel a slight throwback to a time when you could be a bit more free and easy by recording on the hoof and putting it out there immediately. I didn’t want to wait until next year when these two tracks might lose any impact and mean nothing.”