Ageless rock'n'roll motherlode reconvenes Stooges, toys with Green Day and hooks up with art-rapper Peaches
Given that it’s 30 years since the last Stooges album, Raw Power, and even longer since the formation of the original Psychedelic Stooges in 1967, you’d imagine that a reunion with Ron and Scott Asheton would be no more than an opportunity to compare bus passes. Fact is, Iggy’s full-tilt house style has lasted a lot better than expected. By simply shaking on the spot, the Iguana’s method?a mixture of ham, hilarity and heavy metal?comes back into fashion on a regular basis.
The Ashetons aren’t the only accomplices on this complex, double-length disc. (Now-)ageing delinquents Green Day chip in with a brace of tracks, the Berkeley-born “Private Hell” and “Supermarket”, while bratty, big-shorted nu-metal pups Sum 41 helped shape the first single “Little Know It All”. But if that implies Pop is craving hipness by association, rest assured the music is as powerfully singular as ever. Skull Ring throbs with ferocious intent before ending in a state called “Nervous Exhaustion”.
“Little Electric Chair” is an astonishingly fierce opener. The first of four tracks to feature the Ashetons, it has the whiplash frenzy of “Search And Destroy” or “Shake Appeal”, all sizzling energy, joyous “wooh!”s and muffled hand claps. Of the other Stooges compositions, the title track has the primeval, pummelling attack of “Raw Power”, while “Loser” and “Dead Rock Star” thrash and flail quite nicely, thank you. Ron’s incendiary buzzsaw guitar and Scott’s none-too-geriatric drum tattoo retain that portrait-in-the-attic quality that will make initiates insist, “This hasn’t dated a jot.”
Even so, attention will inevitably drift towards the album’s more eccentric cuts. Peaches and Ig’s “Rock Show” (itself a riposte to Peaches’ Kitty Yo release of the same name) grabs a slice of the electroclash action. It’s probably too XXX for daytime consumption but otherwise sounds like a hit?potentially Pop’s first taste of mainstream success since his days hanging out with David Bowie. Balancing the back-of-the-cranium production values Iggy espouses, there are some great pastiches. “Here Comes The Summer” is an obvious homage to Jim Morrison and “Sugarbabe”, pure Idiot-era motorik noir, contains an almost perfect impersonation of Bowie (who stole the voice from Iggy first time ’round). Sweetest of all is a solo acoustic version of “Till Wrong Feels Right”, loosely based on a country blues by Mississippi Fred McDowell. Given a foul-mouthed slant, Iggy bemoans the “piece of shit” he is force-fed by rock TV and radio. Despite a hint of ho-humbug and, perhaps, biting the hand that feeds him, he’s got a point, and if someone’s gotta right to moan then it’s one of the few surviving progenitors, and he does it with more aplomb than most.
Sure, it flags here and there, but Skull Ring is Iggy’s most sustained assault since the Instinct/Brick By Brick double whammy. He did the reflective, midlife crisis thing on 1999’s Avenue B. Now it’s senile dementia all the way. Fine by us. Just one thing: why didn’t they call it “The Three Stooges”?