The Stooges – The Stooges

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Starts great. The first two songs – and they are more or less songs – are probably the Stooges’s finest opening one-two-punch ever.

“1969”? Awesome. Sinister, rousing; guitars falling and squirming and charging in all the cool places. Love the way the wah-wah opens the album with a sort of melodic yawn if you will, with that drum smack accentuating it — that’s just great production, and also just plain cooooool. Also cool is the rest of the song: meaningless lines attacking the meaningless of it and out of it, spinning lyrics to mantras; the guitar chords coming in at the 0:40 mark because it’s “Another year with nothing to do”; the way the band mostly move between two chords throughout but with the tight rhythm, it’s hard to notice or care. And that outro…oh God, that outro. Iggy’s vocals in those last 30 seconds are just so unhinged, shredding it to match the guitar (see also: Lynda Lunch’s climax of Sonic Youth’s “Death Valley ’69” a decade and a half later); settling for shit.

“I Wanna Be Your Dog”? Bad-ass. Unlike “1969,” this opens with a roar of feedback and like “1969,” it’s an intro that they didn’t need to have but we’re all so glad that’s how it happened anyway. And then: out of the feedback, a groove; Dave Alexander enters, bolstering it; Scott Asheton does a drumroll and John Cale comes in with a piano line like this was “I’m Waiting for the Man” all over again (and for him, it was) and with his free hand, shakes a sleigh-bell like he didn’t get the memo about the song’s subject matter. Actually, he probably did get the memo: the piano and sleigh-bell – inherently not very sleazy instruments – contrast so well with the sleaziness of the rest of the song, that they somehow add to it; hearing Iggy Pop say “So messed up, I want you here” while grabbing his erection over these sounds makes for one of the greatest 40 second-starts of any song, ever. (And, since I’ve already invoked Sonic Youth in this review, the reason why their cover is completely useless and un-sexy in comparison might be because they’re missing said piano and sleigh-bells.)

And thennnnnnn….!……………eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhyeah. Sorry, but even if you’re one of the many fans of “We Will Fall” – a half-decent but kinda lazy and even mildly irritating song which I’m almost certain gave birth to Michael Gira, which, given the influence by the best Doors’ song and the presence of John Cale’s viola, I wish I liked more – I think it’s telling that most of the many raves don’t much talk about the stuff after track three or maybe four. I mean, there aren’t even special moments; not a track succeeds in sustaining inspiration the whole way through, and I’d say at least half of “No Fun”‘s praise comes from the handclaps. I mean, what else ya got here? “Real Cool Time”? Complete time-fill of a track which announces its status with its intro which you can hear done much similarly but also much better by proceeding directly to “I Wanna Be Your Dog” without passing Go and without collecting $200. “Ann”? Trifle. Attempts to streamline “We Will Fall” except that song wasn’t meant to be streamlined. “Not Right”? 3-minute throwaway of string-scratching. “Little Doll?” Decent rhythm, except Iggy in particular sounds bored out of his mind, and not in the enticing “I Wanna Be Your Dog” way either.

Add to this that the album’s tidy production, which sounds crisp in the first few tracks, and the over-use of the wah-wah pedal, which both gradually reveal themselves to be somewhat stifling for this band (everything seems to operate at the same dynamic level, everything sorta blurring and dragging around in a loud mush that prevents even potentially good songs from catching fire), and what you have here is simply a good record, not a great one.

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3 responses to “The Stooges – The Stooges

  1. I was sent to this record by Henry Rollins’ endorsement ages ago, and at first I think I agreed with you. But over the years, and countless plays, now I love it all. The shining moments are so roughly brilliant as to make it immutable, but the wobbly bits have a place of love in my heart too.

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