The Stooges – Ready To Die

Ready To Die (2013)

B 

1. Burn 2. Sex & Money 3. Job 4. Gun 5. Unfriendly World 6. Ready To Die 7. DD’s 8. Dirty Deal 9. Beat That Guy 10. The Departed

 

Yeah, more like Half Of Us Are Already Dead if you ask me!

Now that that’s out of the way, we can get down to business. And the business at hand is that Ready To Die is THE BEST STOOGES ALBUM IN FORTY YEARS! I put that in caps so when Iggy reads (cause I KNOW he’s a big fan of the site!) this he’ll know which quote to slap on the sticker on the CD cover. Also so that if anyone from Rolling Stone happens to read this review, they’ll hire me to write for them again because they’ll know I have what it takes to spend my days writing ridiculous hyperbole about washed up rock stars turgid new material. Which all signs seem to indicate is exactly what they’re looking for.

Actually, though, it isn’t hyperbole, since Ready To Die literally is the best Stooges album in forty years. Never mind that its only competition is the historic turd The Weirdness… the Stooges are BACK! YEAH! Nah, even with that ridiculously low bar to surpass, this new effort manages to entertain to a surprising degree, and is a mostly non-embarrassing way to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of Raw Power. Especially since, with Ron Asheton out of the picture after coming down with a nasty case of death, James Williamson, as I previously alluded to in my review of The Weirdness, hath returned from the depths of a Sony boardroom to retake the guitar slot. No, seriously; apparently he’d spent the last thirty years working in Silicon Valley, most recently as Sony’s vice president of technical standards, and not even playing guitar. Can you imagine? And most amazingly of all, all that time spent as a soulless corporate sellout doesn’t seem to have had any effect on his mojo. He can still tear it up like it’s 1973, I swear – same propulsive riffing and Mick Taylor-meets-punk soloing and everything.

He can’t quite write riffs like “Search And Destroy” anymore, of course, but at this point, expecting that would be like expecting Joe Namath to suit up for the Jets on Sunday and throw for 4 TDs. Besides, The Weirdness already brought our expectations for new Stooges material crashing down so low that (with apologies to Mr. Plinkett) they’re right next to fucking dinosaur bones, so anything that’s even remotely catchy and doesn’t feature Iggy acting like a constipated grandpa is a win in my book. With that in mind, what if I told you that the first half was the record was legitimately, you know, pretty good straight ahead garage rock? Would you believe me? Well, you probably wouldn’t, so just take a listen to “Job” and “Gun,” Iggy and Williamson’s attempts to write recession anthems. No matter what preconceived notions you may have, you’ve gotta admit they’re high-energy, they’ve got rock solid hooks, and Iggy even sounds like he gives a shit about what he’s doing. Oh sure, the lyrics are still the same trite fourth grade-level rhyming that was all over The Weirdness (“I got a job/I got a job/I got a job but it don’t pay shit/I got a job/I got a job/I got a job and I’m sick of it”), but with Williamson backing him up, Iggy at least sounds more snarky than he does retarded. Besides, it’s not like “No Fun” or “Real Cool Time” were exactly chock full of lyrical subtleties… quite the opposite, in fact. A great riff can go a long toward making me forgive, or just forget about, underwritten lyrics. That’s just as true today as it was in 1969 or 1973, and it’s sure great to hear Williamson pounding out that Stones/Raw Power-esque chording at the beginning of “Gun.”

A noticeable portion of Ready To Die, however, is dedicated to deliberately avoiding trying to rekindle the old days. The two acoustic cuts shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, considering the fact that Iggy’s last two solo efforts were composed of covers of non-rock French standards, indicating that he’s actually taken to accepting his advancing age with some grace. Having that attitude carry over to the Stooges may be unexpected, but after The Weirdness, its not like the sanctity of the Stooges’ name can be in any further peril. In fact, I welcome the wrinkle – the tastefully self-referential “The Departed,” with its swampy slide guitar and sly musical quotes of “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” is well done, as is the bright, semi-acoustic “Beat That Guy.”

Unfortunately, and perhaps unsurprisingly, these geezers (shit, even Mike Watt is 55!) can’t keep up the momentum for the entire duration of an album, even one that only lasts 35 minutes. And geez, a couple too many formulaic rockers are one thing, but did they really have to force us to sit through the indignity that is “DD’s,” in which Iggy letches after a pair of tits over a grotesque bastardization of the “Can’t Get Next To You” bassline? I guess it just throws into relief how much less embarrassing the rest of the record is, which is… something, I guess.



One Comment

  1. victoid wrote:

    The album could be 36 minutes of silence and would still be worthy of an A for the cover.
    Iggy is a star beyond any convention.

    Oh, and “underwritten lyrics”? Surely you jest! No Fun and Real Cool Time will be immortal because of their mind-numbingly simplistic, bludgeoning lyrics. I think Iggy invented this form of base poetry. The Ramones tried but failed and paled in Iggy’s shadow.


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