ROCK AROUND THE WORLD®
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|Newspaper Articles - Issue 11|
TURN AROUND. . . TAKE A LOOK AT YOURSELF
The dream goes on forever ... doesn't it? ... can't it?... Oh well, nothing ever stays the same - not even ideas and principles. They're good, only for a time, and usually supplement some need. A person's belief in something needn't be transitory, nor driven by personal gain. But when, and only when, conditions out of one's control permit such beliefs to be economically construed, welcome the "Idiot". Similarly, Dostoyevsky's "Idiot" is so ingenuously charming and impossibly naive, that his naturalness transcends even his most insignificant acts. Into that moral and ethical nature we can thrust one stooge -- Iggy Pop (former) punk-avatar and raw crooner of the late, great GREAT!) Stooges, and, currently fronting the Iggy Pop (mannequin) Band featuring David Bowie on multi-keyboards, Rick Gardiner (limp guitar), Hunt and Tony Sales (bass and drums).
Times change, and sometimes, a contradiction often is the only guideline we have to notice the difference. While Iggy was singing with the Stooges, rock music lifted into the sonic spheres -- a plateau very few rock groups are capable of achieving. The finest example of "American metal and scrambled-brains-music" that a youth culture could call an art form. On "Funhouse", the Stooges took rock to its ' limits with the final selection: "L.A. Blues" a soaring, twisting, snarling, nasty, cosmic, grinding skid of intensity resembling the Apocalypse or White Noise. If you made it through the album into that coda, you can live through/and understand anything. And I'm very serious. It's as serious as straight kids not wanting to hang out with stoned kids, cause they're scared of getting hooked, or something horribly corrupting. Or punk rockers adopting the pose of tough-guy without understanding the principles of negativity. TO ALL READERS, EVERYWHERE: YOU CANNOT UNDERSTAND/RELATE/DEFINE/ENDURE "punk rock" WITHOUT EXPERIENCING "FUNHOUSE", IN TOTO!!!
Sure enough, their first album, simply entitled: "The Stooges", contains the same message: tough is in the puttin'. Eight songs--some clean and classy, some rough and nihilistic--bonded by producer John Cale's insight. Cale stays behind the board (fear?), surfacing once to add some ethereal viola to the ten minute (ten hour bad trip?) opus of doom: "We Will Fall". Together, the first two albums probably represented the strongest one-two punch of any American rock bank, (with the possible exception of the MC5) in this decade. And the clincher was yet to come.
In 1973, Iggy and the Stooges got to make another album. The definitive power rock album of the 70's: "Raw Power". You can forget Aerosmith, the Dolls, the Ramones, Kiss, the Stones, or other so-called "heavy" bands -- these Stooges ("Rock" and Ron Asheton: drums and bass; James "Skull" Williamson: lethal guitar; Ig: the world's forgotten boy on vocals) had them all beat on the lethal level -- by a catatonic harrowing mile. Just a look at the song titles indicates the decision to bring-it-on-home: "Search and Destroy". "Death Trip", "Penetrations", "Gimme Danger", and the incredible "Raw Power". It's as if Iggy and the Band were writing their obit with the greatest, "the most nihilistic, depraved, desperate (meaning: if this buncha songs don't strike your fancy, then, nothing -- includin' everything we have ever done -- will: just turn away, and let us burn-out with our engines full blast . . . piece of music ever recorded". By now, Iggy had become a living legend.
Iggy is the most intense performer I have ever seen. I first saw them at Boston College, almost seven years ago: they played a half-hour set to, perhaps, one hundred people. Before they had finished, only about three dozen neophytes remained -- trasfixed as Ig squirmed across the hall floor, whilst crooning "The Shadow of Your Smile", acapella. Phew! This unrelenting intensity can only manifest itself by such effusive demonstrations of "Aliveness", by challenging audiences, by self-castigation (the plunges into the third row, cutting himself and rolling in broken glass on stage). -- by total submission to the music. This is the vulnerability that makes Iggy the idiot.
Currently, Iggy is on tour with his new band to promote his newest disc (the only other release is the French "Metallic K.O." -- a statement of existence rather than a record. See R.A.T.W. no 8). As most fans are aware the presence of Iggy's new mentor, David Bowie, has caused immediate controversy, especially in its obvious effects on the Ig: That's why there seems to be less dementia. That's why all those concerned are making sure that Iggy keeps on making albums. Certain sceptics may mutter about the lack of heavy metal workouts, but "The Idiot" must be Ig's vision of future rock. (Whoa! And is this albums tone a surprise of what???) Each song oozes mood and pathos and hypnotic sounds. Under the skin -- not over the head. Expect the unexpected, definitely!
Iggy said in a recent interview: "I'm not a punk anymore. I'm a damned man!" Now, where does that put the punk craze? If "The Idiot" is actually conceived and dominated by Iggy, and not by Bowie, then what sort of insight does the Pop have about the future of punk rock/hard rock? Can it be that somehow he's seen the writing in the sky, and it spells E-N-O. That oblique strategist wove his charming avant-music into Bowie's last LP, "Low", and that same aura pervades Ig's record to. I mean, it does sound like James Brown/Jim Morrison-meets-Fraftwerk or Eno. . . And apart from the vocals not even sounding like the ole Ig it still sounds new, modern contemporary. It still confronts the forces who always win -- looking for acceptance, accepting loss as strength, and facing the pain of the 70's stress. The brutal realities of Iggy's existence (and the raw candor of his statements therein) now seem to be eloquently adaptable to the thin white duke's constant attempts at creating "new music, night and day". The use of repeated motifs, the haunting backup vocals, the synthesized control of most of the instruments -- these are the new toys. Working with these now, Iggy has seen the infinite.
Lyrically, two of the "The Idiots" tune/dirges come close to capturing the present angst of Iggy Pop. Suffice to say, both sides of the disc try to capture the grim tension of the subterranean' style, but it is side two that tolls infernal and grinding pathos. In"Dum Dum Boys" the Pop presents a poignant salute to the once mighty spirit of the Stooges.
In the dark isolation of introductory fingersnaps, Iggy recites a list of real life Stooge casualties (" . . . what happened to Dave? -- O.D.ed on alcohol . . . oh, what's "Rock" doin? -- ah, he's livin' with his mutha . . . how about James? -- he's gone straight . . .") before bemoaning their fate in front of Bowie's brain numbing few chords which anesthetize the need for their aid;
There is no burst of cosmic-guitar, yelps, or Stooge-beat to soothe the Ig's emotions -- just Bowie's mechanical drone.
Of course, the other tune is "Mass Production" -- the most sinister piece of music Iggy has just written. Summoning up the spirit of Jim Morrison (the vocal similarities are haunting -- even the poetry would make the late Lizard King grin in gist), the Pop lets loose with a barrage of pain that would delight any free individual struggling for a freedom the human body or the progressive mind could never contain:
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