Pretty Good Album Alert

July 24, 2005... Much has been written about Iggy & the Stooges final studio album, Raw Power. It is the "Album Pick" from the Stooges oeuvre on the AMG website; it earned a perfect 10.0 in a Pitchfork review; and, according to Trouser Press the album is "a masterpiece." I don't know about that, but Raw Power is the sort of record a fellow can fantasize about offending authority figures with, as generation after generation of just that sort of fellow has clearly noticed.

Originally released in 1973, Raw Power was given a "very violent" remix by Iggy Pop and re-released in 1997. It is to the remixed version of the album that my comments below pertain.

As with the first two Stooges albums, Raw Power is bleak and primitive. But unlike the first two Stooges albums--in fact, probably unlike any album by any band before it--Raw Power took rock and roll to a whole other volume level.

The main difference would appear to be new guitarist James Williamson. Williamson was a god of rhythm, hammering out precise, bludgeoning riff after precise, bludgeoning riff. What's more, in terms of guitar tone, he was without peer. Sometimes, when I listen to a record, I can tell that a guitarist has used a solid state effects pedal to distort his or her sound. The result is often thin and/or fuzzy sounding. On Raw Power, though, what I hear is a tube amplifier on full blast, with the speakers overheated and smoking, and the rest of the band cowering behind baffles in another room. There are no soft, fuzzy edges to Williamson's sound. This fucker's playing from the diaphragm.

I am a product of the 1980s hardcore punk scene, so I've heard a distorted guitar or two, but nothing grabs me by the throat like the distorted guitar tone on this record. It packs twice the punch of Metallica, but with only half as many bloody knuckles. And if that was all that mattered, Raw Power would be the desert island disk.

But that's not all that matters.

There are aspects of Iggy's performance on Raw Power that I am not crazy about. He's dropped the Mick Jagger fetish he flirted with on the band's previous album, and replaced the previous album's caveman grunts with blood-curdling screams--which are both good things. There's plenty of snarl in his vocals, of course; and, here and there, as on "Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell," and the title track, I can hear the influence of modern primitive Jerry Lee Lewis. Mostly, though, what I hear in Iggy is the self-deluded swagger of faux-poet Jim "Lizard King" Morrison. Yecch.

I'm just picking nits, though. Iggy's great on Raw Power. He's just not perfect.

As for the band's rhythm section--the fabulous, furry Asheton brothers--they can barely be heard on the album. About them, Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote: "Ron and Scott Asheton formed a ridiculously primitive rhythm section, pounding out chords with no finesse -- in essence, the Stooges were the first rock & roll band com-pletely stripped of the swinging beat that epitomized R&B; and early rock & roll." But while that may have been true of the band's two previous albums Raw Power is actually chock-a-block with the swing of old-timey, big-boppin' rock and roll. Check it out.

Iggy & the Stooges - Shake Appeal

Reach in and feel around past the crunching jackboots guitar and I'm sure you'll agree "Shake Appeal" swings like a bat. Every time I listen to the fucker, I am reminded of that other swinging cat, Chuck Berry, and his tune "Rock & Roll Music." How about you?

Chuck Berry - Rock & Roll Music

One other thing: Raw Power also bears the indelible stamp of (The) Alice Cooper (Group). That's right, Iggy & the Stooges were influenced by that other, less-lionized, early-seventies Detroit rock combo.

Seriously, dude, "Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell" sounds like an out-take from the Killer or School's Out sessions. In fact, it sounds like a more straightforward version of Under My Wheels" with the growl-ing coda from "Public Animal #9" tacked onto it. The main difference is that the Stooges song doesn't have the shit stink of producer Bob Ezrin's banker's breath all over it.

(The) Alice Cooper (Group) - Under My Wheels

But, dude, check this out: Killer came out in 1971; School's Out in 1972; and Raw Power in 1973. The AC Groop was foist!

Similarly, what is "Gimme Danger" other than a blood-encrusted, peanut-butter-smeared man with his hand up Jim Morrison's ass singing (The) Alice Cooper (Group)'s "(I'm) Eighteen"? You know "(I'm) Eighteen?" The song released by (The) Alice Cooper (Group) in 1969?

Anyway, as much fun as it is to try to pinpoint where Iggy & the Stooges drew their inspiration for Raw Power, it is even more fun--and much more exhausting--to pinpoint who was inspired by it in turn.

Of course, the sound of the Stooges, particularly the pre-James Williamson version of the band, clings to the lumberjackets of the grunge era like another layer of dirt. But Nirvana, at least, had a soft spot for the Raw Power-era Stooges, too. Check out the track "Paper Cuts" from the first Nirvana album, Bleach, which shares its pummeling, guitar-as-percussion approach with Raw Power's closer, "Death Trip."

Nirvana - Paper Cuts

"Paper Cuts" is a symphony compared to "Death Trip," however, whose single, solitary riff is pounded into the ground for nearly seven minutes while Iggy screams like a ten foot long tapeworm has just reared its head out his ass…

Even mope rockers Joy Division had at least one Stooges fans in its ranks. The bass line in the Joy Division song "New Dawn Fades" is a little too similar to the chord progression of "Gimme Danger" to be a coincidence.

Joy Division - New Dawn Fades

Finally, in name and attitude, at least, the 1980's Italian hardcore group, Raw Power, seem to have drawn some inspiration from the final Iggy & the Stooges record, too. The sonic influence, if it is there at all, is less direct, and sounds like it might've been filtered through Bad Brains and the Ramones first. It matters not, though. Any old excuse is good enough to post this classic.

Raw Power - Fuck Authority

Anyway… I guess what I'm tryna say here is that if you like the various tracks I've posted today, odds are very good you will like the remixed version of the Iggy & the Stooges album Raw Power. Go buy a copy today and start offending the authority figures in your life.

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