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Under The Influence

Back under Stoogelights

Indrajit Hazra Aug 27, 2013

Much ear-wax has been excavated since David Bowie returned in March this year to top diamond dog form with his album, The Next Day, to much gush and awe. Many children of the 70s have gone back to rummage in their attics (read: quickly shopped at the iTunes store) to let it be known to one and all that they had bought all three albums of Bowie’s ”˜Berlin Trilogy’ – Low (1977), Heroes (1977) and Lodger (1979) – as soon as they had come out. (What they leave out mentioning is that they quickly traded these three cassettes for Genesis’ And Then There Were Three, Neil Diamond’s You Don’t Bring Me Flowers and Tears For Fears’ The Hurting. But never mind.)

While Bowie’s return to the charts and all that is lovely, what about making some search-and-destroy happy noises about his old Berlin buddy and sleep-over mate James Osterberg a.k.a. Iggy Pop? Iggy, reunited with his old band the Stooges since 2003, has been raving and snapping very well since the band came out in February with their new album, Ready to Die. While the reunited Iggy & the Stooges were quite pom-pom in their ”˜return’ 2007 album, The Weirdness (“Trollin” was my bet to go viral on the internet), this baby is different. 

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It’s different because we see the return of ”“ raise those shot glasses – guitarist James Williamson in the wrinkly fold. Williamson, remember, had joined the Stooges as the band’s second guitarist (to add fuel to Ron Asheton’s guitars) in 1970. He’s the one who gave the Stooges their trademark raze-the-place-to-the-ground, louder-than-bombs sound. After the Stooges’ reformation, he stayed out – until 2009 when Asheton died. Let me just start by saying that YOU CAN HEAR THEM WILLIAMSON GUITARS ON THIS RECORD!

“Burn” is a growler of a start to an album by a band fronted by a 66-year-old shirt-hater. Iggy sings on a low simmer while the guitars punch faces in every direction. If you can resist this riff-wired rottweiling track, you’re either comatose or a Coldplay fan. (In most cases, the two are synonyms.) The phat notes of “Sex and Money” have all the signs of Detroit car-breakers riding into Vegas to rearrange the town.

Iggy and Williamson could be time-travelling 30 years back in “Job,” a hard-knuckled spit-song that you can blare from your 3 x5 feet office cubicle when the boss is menstruating with Iggy goading you on with the line, “I got a job/ I got a job/ I got a job/ but it don’t pay shit/ I got a job….and I’m sick of it.” Rock’n’roll shoots out straight from “Gun” that has our favourite Iguana pointing out with utter charm and lucidity, “If I had a fuckin’ gun/ I could shoot at everyone.” You can tackle the irony after you’ve bodyslammed away to the crunchmusik.

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Ok, so in “Unfriendly World,” Iggy’s pretending to be Leonard Cohen for some reason (Williamson went off to take a dump?) But happiness returns in crunch boots in the title song. Drawled out like a chewed chewing gum, the guitars are as choppy and chunky as meat wrapped around a suicide-bomber chest. “DD’s” is a filler that conserves the dirty energy for “Dirty Deal”. “Beat The Guy” is intricate and spooky, while “The Departed” brings out the ghost of that gorgeously dangerous riff of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” – only to lead us to a kind of dentist’s waiting room. K-L-P-D.

But Ready To Die, on the whole, is a brash, loud, deceptively dexterous album that sees Iggy & The Stooges return to Smash-Legoland. With crowbars and guitars.


This column was published in the August 2013 edition of Rolling Stone India