Friday, March 16, 2007

The Stooges- The Weirdness

The Stooges have pulled the wool over our eyes. When Iggy and the boys reunited for a series of one-off shows in 2005 and 2006, they blew fans and critics away with the same explosive energy they displayed in the early ‘70s. Invigorated by the public’s response, the band announced a new Stooges album for 2007. The result is The Weirdness, a half-baked attempt at a comeback.

There was no way that the band could top the visceral power of their first three albums, but they certainly could have tried harder than this. The Weirdness sounds very rushed, as if it were written in a few days. For a band like The Stooges, this would seem like a good thing, but none of the ideas ever take flight. The band tries so hard to sound like themselves that they come off as an imitation

The thing that made The Stooges so groundbreaking was their sound. Guitarist Ron Asheton created walls of distortion and noise. His guitar would produce squeals and moans that seemed to come from the depths of hell. He balanced the sheets of sound by creating riffs that become tattooed on the listener’s brain. On The Weirdness, Asheton’s guitar squeals in all the right places, but the riffs aren’t there. They are so bland that they sound like they come from an instructional video. All the songs bleed together. There is nothing to distinguish “Trollin’,” from “You Can’t Have Friends” or “My Idea of Fun” from “Greedy Awful People.”

Drummer Scott Asheton suffers from the same problem as his brother. His drums are exceptionally loud, but are incredibly robotic. Asheton seems to be going through the motions, not even bothering to create a groove. This is a problem, because the Stooges thrived on a groove; its part of what made them so appealing. With the lack of great riffing and robotic drumming, the mighty Stooges sound like just another punk band.

Iggy Pop could have saved this record. If he was on his A-Game, his charisma could easily transcend the banality of the music. Unfortunately, Iggy could care less, and it shows. Pop’s voice has lowered in recent years, but that’s understandable considering he is in his late 50s. However, his vocal delivery has nothing to do with nature. Iggy talks his way through each song, and his apathy for the material is palpable. The apathy extends to his lyric writing, which take arrested development to a new level. How do you respond to a 59-year old man spouting lines like “My idea of fun is killing everyone?”

When The Stooges reunited for those festival gigs last year, they proved that they could still bring the goods live. Their live gigs may still pack a punch, but the energy onstage no longer translates to a good record. Raw Power was a street walking cheetah with a heartful of napalm, but The Weirdness is a house cat with a firecracker.

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