The Stooges, "The Weirdness" (Virgin)
The sad but undeniable truth about the overwhelming majority of rock
reunions is that they invariably disappoint, often detracting from the
glories of the band the first time around. The most notable exceptions have
been in the energy-uber-alles genre of punk, though even there, there have
been as many artistically successful comebacks (Mission of Burma, Wire, the
Buzzcocks) as there have been dismal failures (the Sex Pistols, Television,
X). So it really could have gone either way for proto-punk legends the
Stooges, who gave us three raw-powerful masterpieces before imploding in the
The album was recorded in Chicago by punk purist Steve Albini in his
always-potent audio-verite style. Guitarist Ron Asheton still packs a mighty
wallop -- which will come as no surprise to anyone who followed post-Stooges
combos such as the (non-British) New Order or Destroy All Monsters -- and
Iggy Pop is, as always, one of the best and most primal vocalists in rock,
building upon the rhythmic, guttural growls that James Brown brought to R&B
and doing more with a wordless exclamation or monosyllabic chant than many
singers do with an entire libretto. The first shortcoming you notice on "The
Weirdness" is that Ron's brother, drummer Scott, and ringer Mike Watt on
bass seem to be phoning it in.
One of the most gripping things about the original Stooges' self-titled
debut was the high-octane fury of the reworked Bo Diddley groove on "1969,"
"No Fun" and "I Wanna Be Your Dog." On 1970's "Fun House," the rhythms were
even more remarkable, finding a middle ground between free jazz and a cave
stomp. And if 1973's "Raw Power" was all about James Williamson's guitar
(which is the reason why the reunited Stooges skip those songs in concert),
that disc's re-jiggered rhythm section of Ron and Scott still mixed punk
intensity with a sexy fluidity that came from growing up in Detroit and
listening to Motown.
In contrast, "The Weirdness" zooms along in a high-speed frenzy that
lacks finesse and seems as generic rhythmically as anything from a
major-label pop-punk band like Good Charlotte. On its own, that wouldn't be
enough to mitigate the joys of Iggy's barking and yelping and Ron's
amphetamine guitar, but there's also the fact that Iggy has nothing to say.
No, the man has never been a lyrical genius, but with the Stooges Mach I, he
was an idiot savant, as opposed to the first half of that equation heard
here or during the lamer moments of his solo career ("Loco Mosquito,"
When it's enough just to listen to him howl "I feel all right!,"
name-checking his band and complaining about cash machines ("ATM"), pushing
buttons for easy outrage in the realms of sex and race ("Trollin'," "Mexican
Guy") or bragging about living fast and dying young when he's weeks away
from his 60th birthday doesn't seem weird at all -- it's just tired,
contrived, hollow and ultimately rather pathetic.