I have such mixed feelings about reunions that even when it comes to bands I really enjoy, I hesitate to rejoice. After all, the Police were one of my favorites, and their performance at the Grammys just fell flat. Sting’s voice is not what it once was, his falsetto never hitting the highs it used to; “Roxanne” was arranged to fit new phrasing, much like the disastrous rerecording of “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” back in the day; and above all, the three Policemen just looked old. Really old. Older still are the Stooges (Iggy is turning 60 this year), who somewhat reunited in 2003 on Iggy Pop’s solo album, Skull Ring, toured extensively, and have finally prepped their triumphant return to the world of recorded music with The Weirdness. Granted, Iggy’s exercise regimen is probably much different than Sting’s, especially after years of heroin chic, and rock and roll has kept Pop forever young (sort of). With Mike Watt on bass, the brothers Asheton back together, and Pop on vocals, the Stooges are ready to release their first album in, wait for it, 34 years!
It’s easy now to look back on the work of the Stooges and hail their few albums as masterpieces. Only a select few appreciated this unbridled Detroit band at the time, including David Bowie and Lester Bangs, both of whom consistently championed Iggy and his cronies. Most of the time, critics panned the Stooges, considering them loud, brash and obnoxious. Of course, that’s why they’ve become such huge icons for today’s music listening youth. Kurt Cobain used to say that Raw Power was the best album ever recorded. We here at Treble even named The Stooges in our best albums of the ’60s feature, as well as Fun House and Raw Power in our similar look at the ’70s. Other famous acts have similarly touted Fun House, including Nick Cave, Jack White and Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hutz calling it the best album ever recorded.
But after this long, could any band bring back the kind of magic they once possessed? Well, since the Stooges were largely lauded after their time, some would say that the timing is perfect. So, with the timing and the personnel in place, all that’s left is the actual music. In truth, The Weirdness is about what everyone would expect from a newly reunited Stooges. There’s nothing shocking or surprising about their musical choices, nor is there any drastic departure from their signature sound. There’s the requisite wall of guitar crunching, the avant-garde saxophone playing in several songs, and the change speeds in Pop’s vocal delivery, from breakneck wild man to the Bowie-like croony warble. It’s all there for fans of the band, which will leave some reeling in their glory, and others cold.
Opener “Trollin'” is one of the highlights, like a refugee from the original self-titled album, possessing vulgarities and the down and dirty style we’ve all come to know and love. “ATM,” “Free and Freaky,” “Greedy Awful People” and “She Took My Money,” don’t exactly have mind-blowing lyrics, but can anyone seriously defend any of the Stooges lyrics from the past? Are we forgetting that this band was all about being crass, baiting the audience, and watching Iggy do snake dances all over the stage? I’m not sure why anyone expects Iggy to be Elvis Costello. The title track finds Iggy at the feet of his one-time savior, David Bowie, crooning like the Thin White Duke to perfection.
I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say that a reunion album was a mistake. That decision is really six of one, half dozen of another. Bands who reunite and don’t record new material are considered sellouts, while those who do are chastised for trying to unsuccessfully recapture the past. But don’t schedule casino tours for the Stooges just yet! The Weirdness, if anything, goes to show that Pop’s voice is still in fine form, the Ashetons can still work it out musically, and the spirit of Michigan rock is still alive and well. Iggy will always be the runaway son of a nuclear A-bomb and we’ll all still run out and get off on his magnetic stage presence and manic energy, and isn’t that what rock and roll is all about? Sting and his $400 cheap seats can kiss my ass.
Iggy Pop – Skull Ring
David Bowie – Heathen
New York Dolls – One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This