Saturday, April 12, 2014

Ready To Die - Iggy and the Stooges

Ready To Die
Iggy and the Stooges
Fat Possum Records  FP 1296-1

Depending on your perspective this is either the fifth Stooges studio album or the second Iggy and the Stooges studio album.  In past posts I've expressed my reluctance to keep doing obituary posts but I just can't ignore Scott Asheton's recent passing and besides I had this album in my stack of records to blog about, I just moved it up a little.  Usually these reunion albums suck.  Too often they are just cynical efforts to cash in on a band's fame delivered with little passion, inspiration or relevance.  This album is better than that fortunately although it can't match the first three classic records.  There is nothing on here that comes close to "Search and Destroy," "Down on the Street," "TV Eye," "I Wanna Be Your Dog," or "1969."  On the plus side it actually sounds a bit like "Raw Power" and there are no bad cuts on the album.  The entire record is written by Iggy Pop and James Williamson, except for the last cut "The Departed" where Scott Asheton gets a co-credit.  "Burn" gets the album off to a rocking start with its roaring guitars and hard driving rhythm.  Lyrics like "the Goddess of beauty is beckoning to me" seem a bit pretentious for the Stooges but the theme of destruction and the rise of the young fit in with the classic ethos of the band.  "Sex & Money" is one of my favorite cuts on the album.  It is a hard-riffing rocker about the pursuit of the title subject bolstered by raucous sax work from Steve Mackay (who was a guest musician on "Fun House.")  "Job" and "Gun" continue in a similar vein with Pop venting impressively about his dissatisfaction with his job and the world in general while the band raises a ruckus behind him.  He may be in his 60s but Pop can still voice youthful rage convincingly.  "Unfriendly World" shifts gears dramatically.  It is a slow, countryish tune sung in a gravelly, understated manner by Pop reminiscent of Leonard Cohen or Lou Reed.  The lyrics are still disaffected, but more introspective and sentimental than the rest of the album.  Side two kicks off with "Ready to Die" in which the band resumes power riffing.  This is another one of my favorite tracks on the album.  James Williamson lays down a killer guitar solo and Pop delivers the nihilistic lyrics with gusto.  "DD's" is a moronic song about sex (the title refers to bra cup size) although the lyrics are surprisingly pretentious with Pop even name dropping Aristotle, Freud and Jung at various points.  It is a generic rocker enlivened by Mackay's honking sax fills.  "Dirty Deal" is a terrific rocker in which Pop rants about getting ripped off by the music business.  It has the best lyrics on the record, probably the most personal song on the album.  Williamson has more smoking guitar work, the guy can still bring it big time.   "Beat That Guy" is a lethargic song that sounds like filler although I like Williamson's solo.  The album ends with "The Departed" which returns to the muted sound of "Unfriendly World" as well as its introspection and sentimentality.  It is kind of a downer finish for a highly charged album, but I do appreciate the song's intelligence and sensitivity which seems like a weird thing to say about a Stooges song.  I like this album a lot better than I expected to, it compares favorably to much of Pop's solo work and it does not disgrace or tarnish the Stooges' legacy.  One of the biggest differences between this album and the classic Stooges records is that Pop has become a better singer which is particularly noticeable in the slower tracks.  That may not necessarily be a good thing when it comes to the Stooges.  The raw whininess and rage in young Iggy had its own appeal, one that I kind of prefer to the worldly, jaded crooner that Pop has become.  Despite that I'm glad this record exists.  It is Scott Asheton's final work and is a worthy epitaph for his impressive career.  His forceful drumming drives the music relentlessly just like it always has whenever he has been behind the kit for a band.  This record is a testament to rock's great loss with Asheton's passing.  Recommended to people who prefer "New Values" over "The Idiot." 

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