Noise 101 CD Reviews for April 15 Reflector
by Sean-Paul Boynton
Before punk was punk and rock was pop, before dyed hair and eyeliner and “Jesus of Suburbia,” there was Iggy Pop and the Stooges, the most dangerous band in the world.
Forget the Rolling Stones and their jaunty blues-ramblings laced with sex, or Jim Morrison’s Oedipal fantasies and proclamations to the dark centre of the hippie movement. The Stooges were all of these things yet so much more; a shot in the arm and a punch in the face to every music snob and rock god who thought music should come from endless hours of practicing guitar in your bedroom with the lights out. To put it bluntly, the Stooges changed everything.
Their legend was sealed when they broke up for the first time in 1970, after two stone-cold classic albums that set the course for what was to come in 1976-78. Punk rock was born not in London or New York, but in Ann Arbor, Michigan, by these four dropouts, high on acid and bereft of musical talent (at least at first – they got better quickly). What they did have was attitude, and they scared people all right, from their primal grooves to Iggy’s…well, just Iggy himself, whether he was screaming that he wanted to be our dog or smearing his body with peanut butter and shards of glass on stage. But they needed a break – they were human beings after all – and they disbanded.
Then, a light from above sent down an angel: David Bowie, who saved Iggy from mental and chemical collapse and urged him to reform the band. So he got himself a new guitarist, James Williamson, who forced original guitarist Ron Asheton to move to bass (former bassist Dave Alexander was well on his way to his eventual death from alcoholism) and join his brother Scott in the rhythm section. With a stack of new songs, the boys went into Bowie’s MainMan Studios and cut the conclusion to their classic, genre-defining trilogy, the best second-act salvation
and career ender in known music history: Raw Power.
Quite simply, Raw Power is exactly what the name suggests: a bruising, high-octane call of the wild, and a template for all that came after it. Its sound is sharp and punishing, its playing grungy and visceral, and the singing…my god, the singing.
Whereas Iggy had tested his actual “singing” abilities within a primitive rock ‘n’ roll band (no doubt confined by the vocal booth) on their debut, and had played a wild, out-of-control madman on Fun House, here he combines the two extremes and solidifies his status as one of rock’s premiere frontmen. The way he method acts his way through every song, giving each its own character and yet tying them all together, is in line with the tradition of the great singers of rock, from Jim Morrison and Bowie before him to John Lydon and Morrissey after. As soon as he utters the first line from “Search and Destroy” after the initial crashing firestorm of the music – “I’m a street-walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm” – Iggy Pop, the Godfather of Punk, was born.
The rest of the band is simply glorious
throughout. Williamson lays waste to his guitar and replaces Ron Asheton’s wah-wah-washed leads with a slashing,
metallic grind that can be heard in the styles of practically every punk and post-punk guitar player that followed in his messy wake. Even the acoustic guitar flourishes in “Gimme Danger” and “I Need Somebody” ooze with danger and destruction. Meanwhile, Ron and Scott Asheton define “brotherly bond” with their stomping rhythms, each anticipating
the others’ turns of phrase and less-than-intricate fills that nevertheless sound positively transcendent.
Thirty-eight years later, Raw Power is getting the deluxe treatment. One of the main issues that are dealt with in this new edition is the sound, which is as infamous
as the album itself. In a nutshell, Iggy produced and mixed the album himself, but the record execs balked, so Bowie was brought in under deadline to mix the album in one day in a cheap mastering
studio. That mix was widely booed upon release, and Iggy remixed the album for the first CD remaster in 1997 – which meant that he basically pushed everything into the red until it buzzed and bled. This Legacy Edition restores Bowie’s original mix, as well as a second disc comprised of a live show from 1972 in Georgia.
But never mind the added-on extras: Raw Power deserves to be heard again. And even if the thought of paying Legacy Edition prices for a punk record sickens you, it’s a small price to pay for allowing the next generation a chance to hear a record that was truly before its time.
Upcoming tracks on the racks
Man, Jack White must be some kind of sorcerer – he just keeps on rolling out products faster than we can lap it up. Less than a year after their debut disc, the Alison Mosshart-led super-group shows no signs of stopping soon, continuing their goth-blues obsessions while rocking
harder than most so-called rock bands. First single “Die By the Drop” is suitably creepy and funky in equal measure; hopefully the short timeline doesn’t mean a drop-off in quality.
Like a more indie-electro version of Nine Inch Nails, James Murphy has used his one-man band moniker to create some of the most exciting music of the past decade, with 2008’s Sound of Silver ending up near the top of several year’s-best lists (and for good reason).Considering the quality of the tracks leaked out so far – especially first official single “Drunk Girls” – his third record should continue his winning streak.
Since their smash Danger Mouse-produced album Attack and Release, the Black Keys have been busy with other projects, including the rap-blues-rock album Blakroc, so it almost came as a surprise that the duo has a new album on the horizon. Brothers is apparently a more stripped-down record compared to its predecessor, which should come as good news to their long-time fans.
After a stint with the bloated super-group Velvet Revolver, Scott Weiland has come back home to roost with his original group, who appear to have lost none of their power since taking a break in 2003. First single “Between the Lines” has the typical Pilots crunch mixed with classic rock swagger, and fans are getting more and more excited for one of the most touted comeback records in quite a while.
The pop princess changes her tune so much and so sharply with each album, it’s hard to take her career as a serious progression. After the typical girl-pop of her debut to the raunchy urban vibe of Stripped to the modern ‘50s soul of Back to Basics, Aguilera hopes to make a mark in the Lady Gaga-ruled pop sphere with this collection of future-minded electro pop. Could this be Black Eyed Peas huge, or simply testament that she should enjoy where she is for a while longer?
Thank goodness that their gig as Jimmy Fallon’s house band has finally exposed The Roots to everyone who already wasn’t in the know that they are the most talented group of musicians to work under the banner of hip-hop. Thank goodness also that it hasn’t slowed down their recording career, as their latest – despite numerous delays – seems finally poised to drop this summer. The title track and first single, a funky ode to the streets, bodes well for what’s to follow.