Iggy & the Stooges, ‘Ready To Die’ – Album Review
Who would have ever guessed that in 2013, we would be talking about a new Stooges album? The odds were certainly not in that column, but then in 2003, the unexpected happened and Iggy Pop, Ron Asheton and brother Scott plugged in once again. They toured and wowed young and old fans alike with their brutal rock and roll assault, and even released a reunion album, although 2007’s ‘The Weirdness’ was hardly the stuff of legend and kind of a false-start comeback.
Since then, Ron has passed away, but the quick-thinking Iggy called on James Williamson, the guy who was to be the Stooges’ savior when the band were redefining themselves in 1973 with the ‘Raw Power‘ album. Iggy, Scott Asheton and Williamson are joined again by bassist Mike Watt and sax player Steve Mackay to deliver ‘Ready To Die.’
So, what’s the verdict? Well…the good news is, it’s far and away so much better than ‘The Weirdness.’ There are some pretty kick-ass rock and roll songs on ‘Ready To Die.’ ‘Burn,’ ‘Sex And Money’ and ‘Dirty Deal’ all have some of the spark and fire you would hope for with the Stooges. ‘Burn’ in particular is a killer, proving they are no nostalgia act going through the motions.
The bad news, however, is that try as they might, something is missing. The ultimate realization is, nothing much here differentiates this from many an Iggy solo album. Not that he hasn’t deliver a healthy batch of good-to-great solo albums, but they weren’t Stooges albums…and in many ways, neither is this. The closest comparison is to the 1975 Pop/Williamson LP ‘Kill City.’
James Williamson can, and does, play the hell out of the guitar, but that guitar is not nearly loud enough on this record. The title cut, ‘Ready To Die’ is a relatively dynamic, though fairly pedestrian, riff-rocker. Maybe the proverbial bar is set too high, but words like ‘pedestrian’ and ‘Stooges’ shouldn’t be used together. Iggy’s vocal delivery throughout is solid, but lacking the almighty piss and vinegar needed to seal the deal.
Lyrically, Iggy is spot-on in songs like ‘Ready To Die,’ ‘Burn’ and ‘Job’ (“I’m just a guy with a rock star attitude, I got no belief and I got no gratitude“) but elsewhere, lines like “I’m on my knees for your double D’s” is, well…let’s just say it’s a long way from “I’m a streetwalkin’ cheetah with a heart full of napalm.”
The band sound tight and focused throughout, and Steve Mackay’s sax really adds a lot here. There are curveballs here in the form of two acoustic-based tracks, ‘Unfriendly World’ and ‘The Departed,’ a sincere tribute to his fallen partner in crime Ron Asheton. Both are decent tunes that Iggy croons his way through, but two of this model on a Stooges album kind of weighs it down. ‘Beat That Guy’ is a fine song, with a fantastic guitar solo from Williamson, but the strings (yes, strings) and female backing vocals seem a little out of place.
Ultimately, the best tracks here are, in fact, pretty damn good, but they run about equal with the weaker numbers, making it about a fifty-fifty proposition. I am guessing, if this were an Iggy solo album, people would be raving, but with the Stooges name on it, maybe not so much in the drooling department. The whole thing comes off more like ‘Kill City’ meets ‘New Values’ (both fine LPs) than it does ‘Raw Power.‘
So while it ain’t perfect, it certainly isn’t awful either. Now that might not sound like a ringing endorsement, but you try and follow up classics like ‘Funhouse’ or ‘Raw Power,’ especially 40-plus years down the road. It can’t be done. Just be thankful Iggy is still out there kicking. His kind won’t be seen again anytime soon.