The Stooges - The Weirdness

Mike Caulfield 09/04/2007

Rating: 3/5

As anyone familiar with The Stooges' 18-certificate back-story (one of womanizing, Herculean drug use, betrayal and peanut butter) will tell you, it's staggering these gentlemen can even stand to hear each other's names, let alone be in the same room making music together, and despite two of the previous members missing (one lost to alcoholism, the other to Silicone Valley), it should be celebrated.

So even if this recent reunion does feel a little like a last ditch cynical attempt to top up their retirement funds, its still THE FUCKING STOOGES! The group accredited to killing the swinging sixties and (arguable) the first punk band, whose influence still reverberates through modern music nearly forty years after their inception.

Recorded with underground legend Steve Albini manning the controls, there's a sense of urgency is inherent throughout 'The Weirdness', gone are the brooding, Coltrane-influenced explorations in favour of streamlined, swaggering punk that rarely strays beyond the four minute mark. Ron Asheton's song writing approach is also less meditative than before, with tracks such as 'I'm Fried' and 'ATM' resembling the mercurial, violent guitar riffs of 'Raw Power' six-stringer, James Williamson, at times.

Kicking off with the sleaze dripping 'Trollin', the four piece (ex-Minutemen and Firehose bassist Mike Watt filling Dave Alexander's shoes) prove that pushing sixty needn't mean slowing down, with Iggy slipping back into his uncontrollable, platinum blonde, provocateur guise that only sporadically invigorated some of his patchy solo outings. The romantic poet in Pop also awakened, “I see your hair as energy/ my dick is turning into a tree” he sings with all the charm of a dirty old man in the midst of a little blue pill fever, over a ferocious garage-rock strut.

The good times continue with 'Idea of Fun', a nihilistic screamer in a similar vain to 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' or 'TV Eye', it's the closest the group get to reaching the vitality of their revered early recordings, Iggy barking “my idea of fun is killing everyone” with a steely single-mindedness that suggests he might not be joking.

The acceleration pedal is released slightly for the albums crooned title track, built around a simplistic descending- ascending swaying riff, it also marks the re-emergence of 'Fun House' tenor saxophonist Steve Mackay, who manages to carve his signature free-jazz flourishes amongst the distortion and low-end grumbling.

But despite most of the LP being packed with high energy, adrenaline-fuelled numbers, later tracks such as 'She Took My Money' and 'Greedy Awful People' pass by with little distinction and cries out for some of the experimental, psychedelic tones of their youth.

Living up to such a stellar back catalogue was always going to an improbable task, likely to do harm if anything, and whilst 'The Weirdness' lacks diversity, with several tracks a shadow of some of the groups that have built careers by regurgitating Stooges ideals, it could have been so much worse.