Monday, May 15, 2017

Raw Power

Few titles describe an album better.

Raw Power by Iggy and the Stooges is an angry, aggressive album; it pulverizes the listener with a sonic assault. Unlike the psychedelic garage rock of the previous Stooges' albums, Raw Powers is a proto-punk thrasher, more distorted, intense, and primal. The music doesn't play; it attacks.

"Dance to the beat of the living dead.
Lose sleep, baby, and stay away from bed.
Raw Power is sure to come a-runnin' for you."

There's nothing fancy or refined about what the Stooges do here. The playing is basic, the composition is simple, the production is raw, and even the slower numbers "Gimme Danger" and "I Need Somebody" erupt with fury. The album is loud, crude, and full-throttled, filled with the kind of music you play when you want to blow out your speakers. Iggy Pop sings as if he's murdering someone or trying to fight the world. He explodes out of the gate with "Search and Destroy."

"I'm a street-walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm.
I'm the runaway son of the nuclear A-bomb.
I am the world's forgotten boy,
The one who searches and destroy."

The Ashton brothers return, and while Scott remains on drums, Ron takes up the bass, leaving guitar duties to the debuting James Williamson, who co-wrote the music with Iggy. Williamson plays the ax faster and with (slightly) more melody than Ron Ashton did on the previous Stooges' albums, and as a result, the guitar is more pronounced, the buzz thicker and heavier. "I Need Somebody" is a dark blues number, and the album closer "Death Trip" plays like the kind of piece one hears on a one-way descent into Hell.

"A sick boy, sick boy, goin' round, baby lose its grip.
Baby, wanna take you out with me, come along on my death trip,
My death trip."

So many acts try to project a bad boy image, but Iggy and company sound like they legitimately are dangerous, like they are going to self-destruct at any minute and take the listener with them. "Raw Power" works because it comes off as kind of slapdash, desperate, and disparate. It's a different kind of energy, one we wouldn't get if the Stooges were more refined musicians who got along with each other. They're genuine rebels, and they spit in the face of everyone and everything.

Interestingly, David Bowie of all people mixed the album for its initial release. This proto-punk grunginess is about as far removed from Bowie's glam and pop style as just about anything, but he manages to sprinkle in some touches, such as the backing piano on "Gimme Danger." Overall, he gives the album a dynamic mix that give the songs bite.

Standout Songs
"Search and Destroy" - This song plays when Bill Murray fights off pirates in Life Aquatic. If that doesn't pump you up, I don't know what will.
"Gimme Danger" - A slower, moodier piece, it just oozes with intense cool.
"Penetration" - Never has sex sounded so intense and angry.

Favorite Moment
Williamson plays a variation of the main riff in the middle of "Search and Destroy." The song sounds out of control, and this moment reasserts its power.

Album Cover
Iggy clutches a mic stand on a black stage, shirtless and emaciated. This is not someone you mess with.

Track Order
1) Search and Destroy
2) Gimme Danger
3) Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell
4) Penetration
5) Raw Power
6) I Need Somebody
7) Shake Appeal
8) Death Trip

Iggy Pop - Vocals
James Williamson - Guitar
Ron Ashton - Bass
Scott Ashton - Drums

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