Iggy and The Stooges - Ready To Die

by Daryl Worthington Rating:5 Release Date:2013-04-29

Iggy and the Stooges shouldn't need an introduction. Their mark on pop culture is clear: Their albums Raw Power and Fun House were fundamental in bringing dirt, danger and destruction to rock and roll. Largely unappreciated on their initial release, these albums have since been absorbed into the lineage of both mainstream and alternative culture. Iggy Pop has become the living prototype of the damaged and damaging pop icon, and the music of his band contributed to the blueprint of fusing populism and nihilism in music, a dichotomy which has been copied, refined and expanded on by so many since. These achievements are enough to immortalise The Stooges as a pioneering step in so much modern music.

Of course, this is a review of the here and now, and more specifically Ready to Die, the newest album by the line-up that released Raw Power (with Minutemen legend Mike Watt deputising on bass for the late Ron Asheton). It would be unfair to expect a band of 60-somethings to match its youthful fire, but unfortunately The Stooges appear to be trying to do just that. Opening track 'Burn' sets the template for the rest of the album, a hard-rock stomp somewhere between proto-glam and heavy blues.

These words could just as easily apply to Raw Power. However, the things which one struggles to put into words are lacking. Iggy's voice has a multi-tracked sheen to it which sounds a little too polished. It's still undoubtedly the same singer who sang with such ferocity in the past, but he sounds like he's been getting production tips from Bryan Adams. The blasts of guitar through the track are full of energy but they seem forced. Iggy has proven with albums such as The Idiot his ability to broaden his musical palette while remaining challenging and engaging. Unfortunately, Ready to Die sounds like an attempt to recapture a signature sound.

Iggy has received a lot of criticism for his role in a series of car insurance adverts. Personally, I think this is a little harsh. Everyone has to make ends meet and Iggy spent years receiving little to no fiscal or critical recognition for his artistic output. As he sings on 'Job': "I've got a job, but it don't pay shit". The problem is that the music is starting to seem more like his plastic effigy than the man himself.

'Gun' seems to be a parody/homage of Springsteen's 'Born in the USA', with a chorus of "Freaking out in the USA", and supersized riffs sounding like a misguided attempt at stadium rock. 'DD's' and 'Sex and Money' deal with themes common throughout Iggy's songs. In the past, said themes were covered with a Bukowski like window into the disturbing, sordid and seedy parts of human nature. Now they have more of a Hugh Hefner vibe to them.

And Yet…

Maybe I'm being too harsh, judging the album by the wrong standards perhaps. It has an arena-sized bounce to it that one can imagine appealing to even those with only a passing knowledge of The Stooges. The songs have an undeniable ability to worm their way into your head.

There has always been a populist foundation to Iggy's music. Even now, he interrupts gigs to bring members of the crowd onto the stage, an act of inclusion which breaks any barriers between artist and consumer. Maybe this rounding-out into cheeky stadium rock is the natural conclusion of this drive for inclusion? Maybe I'm being reactionary, but the problem with this album is that, somewhere, The Stooges have changed from an edgy, difficult listen into more of a novelty guilty pleasure. Surely this was never the point?

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