Iggy and the Stooges – Ready To Die (Fat Possum)
CD / LP / DL
Iggy Pop reunited with the Stooges in Feb of this year. They quickly set to & revorded an album. Ready To Die is that album & Louder Than War’s Andy Barding has been listening to us for us. Here’s his verdict.
Bloody music critics, eh? Miserable bloody lot. No spring sunshine for them, oh no. just clouds. Great, gloomy clouds that cast heavy shadows.
These people spend their days in a dark malaise, their once-bright minds now tarnished by a new strain of pessimism for an unfriendly new age. They write for a world that is populated by the young self-possessed, self-obsessed and self-serving. The critics’ duty, as they see it, is to pick holes in the art they used to love. Because what their readers REALLY want from them is a list of reasons why not to listen to something. Right?
Well, I’ve read the reviews for “Ready To Die” that are all over the internet – and I just don’t get them. They do not compute. The consensus is that this is a patchy work – a brave but misfired album from a bunch of old fellas who are at least trying their hardest to fit in.
No! No! No! The truth is this: on all counts, this new record from Iggy and the Stooges is a staggering and stunning success. And you must get hold of it.
Much praise must land at the feet of James Williamson and his reignited firecracker of an electric guitar. It shrieks its thunderous tantrums all over this record, drenching many of its short songs with undiluted essence of “Raw Power”. And all very much from the get-go.
Yes, ‘Burn’, as an opening statement of intent, is perfectly placed. Expect flawless Stooges, 73-style, just like mother used to make, it seems to want to say. Big words, big man. But it delivers – skipping as it does over stepping stones of stoner rock, mallet-wielding metal and defiantly-exposed rock-balls. Woven into the wonderful melee is Iggy’s growling vocal, just as strong and defiant as ever. And funny, too (“I’m on file/With a reptile”).
And so it proceeds, through a catalogue of new songs that demand to be heard. Here and there, Steve MacKay’s saxy honk-work is on hand to throw wood onto Williamson’s bonfire, like on ‘DD’s’. The subject matter of this one might be more Steel Panther than Streetwalkin’ Cheetah, but it’s a soulful and swinging tune all the same. Along with ‘Sex and Money’ (which could have been a Rocket From The Crypt’ showtune in another time and universe), these are the two songs that could most easily have been exhumed from “Kill City”.
The album has some reet rockers. ‘Gun’ has Iggy playfully baiting his paranoid countrymen and women, salvaging all the irony that he seemingly forgot to put into ‘I’m A Conservative’ back in 1980. “If I had a fuckin’ gun, I could shoot at everyone” he opines. Following it with a “Watch out for the Mexicans, they’ll be back to kick our cans.” Some people actually think like this. It’s worth remembering that.
There’s snotty bile aplenty on ‘Dirty Deal’, Iggy’s loudmouthed autobiographical music biz grumblesong. You have to wonder just who was in the crosshairs when he wrote “He knew I was innocent/I knew he was fucking bent.” DeFries, Holzman, Bowie, Fields?
All of these songs would effortlessly constitute a fantastic new-old Stooges album on their lonesome – but hold your dead horses awhile. Because interspersing these rockers are what we used to call a handful of ‘curveballs’ – a surprise peppering of acoustic and semi-acoustic offerings that signify a whole new ballgame. ‘Unfriendly World’ is a gentler, more reflective take on Iggy’s pensive nature – the sort of introspection that comes wrapped in rock on the title track that follows it. Just what you’d expect from a pensionable artist, perhaps.
And then there’s ‘The Departed’ – clearly a heartfelt tribute to the late Ron Asheton and his like. A quite beautiful song with a poignant message, all bookended by a Williamson slide guitar riff that will be immediately familiar to all.
That one and ‘Beat That Guy’ probably shouldn’t really work in the context of a Stooges album – but they do. They really fucking do. Bombastic and slow-building, ‘Beat That Guy’ is remarkable in how it finally throws a rope bridge over the chasm that has forever existed between Iggy’s solo work and the stuff of the Stooges. Because, more than anything, that’s what this album is. It’s not punk nostalgia and it’s not funny old Iggy. It’s a way forward for the Stooges, made many times more effective by the skills they have honed and retained over decades.
This is a brilliant record, crafted skilfully by masters of their medium. It could mark a turning point for them. Stop reading about it. Go and hear it.