Release Date: Apr 30, 2013
Record label: Fat Possum
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Punk/New Wave, Proto-Punk, American Punk
How many second chances does Iggy Pop get? The singing Stooge nabs another with this robust studio resurrection of his alliance with guitarist James Williamson, the axis behind the Stooges' 1973 lethal-glam classic, Raw Power, and the battered jewels on the 1977 Pop-Williamson set, Kill City. Ready to Die more resembles the latter, not just in the lower acoustic gear of "Unfriendly World" and "The Departed," a homage to the late Stooge Ron Asheton, but in the meaty brawling-Stones thrust of "Burn," "Job," "Gun" and the lascivious "DD's." Iggy is, as you can tell, in blunt fuck-you and just-try-to-kill-me form – the reason, of course, he gets all these chances. .
It should be clear by now that Iggy & The Stooges can’t be judged against anything else going on in music. Iggy is an incorrigible force of nature, growing old disgracefully; deft juggernaut Scott Asheton is rock’s most underrated drummer; James Williamson remains a master of the stun guitar. Though things can never be the same after Ron Asheton’s death buried The Stooges in 2009, this Raw Power-descended incarnation is hell-bent on keeping that invaluable spirit at napalm level while, for the first time, acknowledging time’s passing.
Ready to Die arrives with none of the heady expectations of The Weirdness, the 2007 comeback that found Iggy Pop and the Asheton Brothers, aided by the sturdy Mike Watt, attempting to re-create some of the madness of Funhouse. For a variety of reasons it didn't work, but it wasn't so much an embarrassment as it was, well, weirdness, from a band weighed down more by its own ongoing internal tensions than its legacy. A little over a year after its release, Ron Asheton died and the group did what they did last time they were hanging by a thread: they brought in guitarist James Williamson.
Iggy Pop’s last two albums (2009’s ‘Préliminaires’ and 2012’s ‘Aprés’) were jazz-based records with lyrics sung in French. Both were passed over by most, because funnily enough some people don’t think jazz albums with lyrics sung in French by the 66-year-old frontman are essential listens. ‘Ready To Die’, Iggy’s first album with The Stooges since 2007’s ‘The Weirdness’, is a different beast, and much more like the balls-on-the-board gutter-rock that made his name.
With six years to reflect, the fact of the matter is 2007's Stooges comeback album The Weirdness really wasn't that bad. While it certainly did not rise to the phenomenal heights of The Stooges, Fun House or Raw Power, saying that it fell short of those albums is basically saying that The Weirdness was not one of the absolute greatest albums ever made. Well, duh.
Whether you choose to view Ready to Die as the fifth Stooges album or the second album by Iggy and the Stooges, the element calling such a basic fact as the group’s name into question is clear. This is the first album released under “the Stooges” banner to not include Ron Asheton (AKA: Rock Action). Serving as guitarist on the debut and sophomore Stooges records, then demoted to bassist for the first to feature Iggy’s name before the rest of the band’s, then back to guitarist for the group’s underwhelming 2007 reunion record The Weirdness, Asheton was as crucial to the band’s sound — some would say more so — as their unhinged frontman’s vocals, misanthropic yet cocky lyrics and subversive stage presence.
Iggy & The Stooges don't have a history of going quietly into the night. After all, their original incarnation self-destructed in a blaze of heroin and recrimination, with 30 years passing before its members occupied a stage as The Stooges again. Many thought the band's reunion would then be curtailed by the untimely death of Stooges founding member Ron Asheton in 2009.
Despite its title, Iggy And The Stooges’ fifth studio album shows the band is still very much alive and kicking. Ready To Die does not have the ‘wow’ factor of the comeback which Iggy Pop’s erstwhile collaborator and friend David Bowie recently made with The Next Day. But it is much stronger than their previous disappointing album The Weirdness (2007), and at times even recalls their creative heyday in the late ’60s and early ’70s.
This definitely ranks among the top five best albums recorded by The Stooges. That’s because they’ve only recorded five. It had some promise, with Raw Power guitarist James Williamson back in the fold, but this record is just no fun. Iggy Pop, who still kills it live, is too gloomy on “The Departed,” too canny on “Gun.” The Stooges reach for their early oeuvre on the opener, “Burn”—but that workout leaves them exhausted for the rest of the record, requiring them to take a breather on three acoustic songs.
The cover finds proto-punk icon and advertiser of insurance Iggy Pop, 66, wearing a belt of dynamite, lined up in a gunman's crosshairs. The album is called Ready to Die. Even allowing for the Stooges' historical reputation as some of the most unwholesome reprobates around whom electric guitars have ever been slung, one assumes they must have at least briefly considered withdrawing this album's artwork, given the events in Boston the week before last.
Promoting the new Iggy and the Stooges album, Iggy Pop has struck a combative note. Among the serried ranks of classic bands that have reformed over the last decade, Iggy and the Stooges, he recently announced, are "a real fucking group", not a collection of musicians gathered together under a lucrative musical flag of convenience – "this is not the Smashing Pumpkins where it's like: 'We've got the bald guy and whoever. '" Ready to Die is the result of "a pig-headed fucking thing I have that a real fucking group when they're an older group make fucking records.
Ig coaxes James Williamson out for a victory lap…When Iggy And The Stooges announced their arrival with Raw Power, the singer was in no mood to equivocate. Over the course of a brisk 34 minutes, Pop, the streetwalking cheetah with a heart full of napalm, considered alienation, disease, damnation, sex and death. In Iggy’s formulation, these things existed in the same emetic moment.As a statement of violent disaffection, it doesn’t get any purer, not least because Iggy’s words were illuminated by James Williamson’s thrashing guitar.
In life there are rules, but flailing, kicking, and panting devilishly outside of those rules is Iggy Pop. The rest of us age; he doesn?t. We get fatter; he still looks like a rock ?n? roll terminator draped in tight leather. Other musicians dull their edges as they grow older; Pop is still driven by his most primal of instincts.
“We could’ve been the American Stones,” Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton told MOJO magazine back in 1996. “We fucked up, man. ” But for all the tales of bloodletting violence and self-destructive substance abuse that defined their initial 1967-1973 run, the Stooges’ biggest fuck-up wouldn’t come until 2007, with the release of their disastrous reunion album The Weirdness.
A leathery strip of pure id, the consistently tanned and shirtless Iggy Pop sports a body that's shriveled like a piece of beef jerky, and that same tightening concentration is reflected on Ready to Die, which is dumber, louder, and raunchier than any previous Stooges album. This should be good news, considering these are the very qualities that made the band so effective in the first pace, but while Iggy's feral mischievousness may still be intact, the Stooges no longer feel like a band capable of anything but embarrassing themselves. Part of this has to do with Iggy's volatile unpredictability; following the group's collapse in the early '70s, he's mostly floated along on personality, managing good material only in collaboration with others, including two great albums under the care and supervision of David Bowie (The Idiot and Lust for Life), and a pretty good one in the company of fellow Stooge James Williamson (Kill City).
This has to be the most severely misnamed album in history. After the misstep of 2007's The Weirdness, the 33-years-overdue fourth Stooges LP, Ready to Die, arrives definitely as the work of a band too alive for its curtain call. All it took was the return of Raw Power guitarist James Williamson, a production and songwriting genius in his own right, for punk rock's parents to find their studio footing for the first time since Iggy Pop reconvened the Detroit thugs who forged his legend.
Is Iggy Pop OK? Is he dying? Is he broke? We ask because we care, and apparently we’re not alone, because this page called “Dead or Alive? Iggy Pop” was just updated three days ago. He’s not dead. But Iggy Pop is 66 years old now, and he just made an album called Ready To Die. It’s expectedly loaded with feelings that are far flung from his Lust For Life heyday, and even though this marks the first Stooges album with Raw Power lick master James Williamson on guitar in almost 30 years, this new album of old ideas hits hardest at its softest, most melancholy moments.
The recording reunion of singer Iggy Pop and guitarist James Williamson on “Ready to Die” is more rough effort, less “Raw Power. ” Flying once again under the Iggy and the Stooges flag (Scott Asheton on drums, Mike Watt on bass, and Steve Mackay on sax), Williamson sounds exultant balancing tone and chaos with the sort of glam-punk swagger that inspired countless other careers in the wake of the Stooges’ 1974 collapse. Pop is in a tougher spot, (wisely) unwilling to replicate his “Raw Power” mind-set but not so sure where to train his focus.
OK, so let's the get the obvious out of the way, shall we? Ready To Die ain't no Raw Power in any shape or form, but then again it was never going to be. Even now Iggy and the Stooges' 1973 classic remains a sonic onslaught, and it still sounds like the logical conclusion of an idea first birthed in the 1950s along with the rise of the teenager. With amplifiers cranked to the max as they strained under James Williamson's lightning fast and dexterous shredding of riffs that would forever burn themselves into the very psyche of rock & roll, Raw Power set a benchmark that subsequent generations of musicians – or a high proportion of them - have failed to even comprehend, let alone achieve.
Anticipating a return to the Stooges' serpentine, napalm-hearted '70s sound? You'd be better served dusting off your copies of Raw Power or Fun House. Looking to rubberneck on another soulless effort just like the band's first reunion record, The Weirdness? Well, you're getting warmer. But here's the strange thing about Ready To Die: it gets the reconfigured quintet no closer to "Search & Destroy," yet this time around, they make their advancing age work to the music's advantage.