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Music Review: The Stooges – The Weirdness

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The Weirdness is the first Stooges album in nearly 35 years from one of the most lionized bands in rock. Iggy Pop has gone on to a decent solo career, but the most cutting-edge time of his life was in the molten thrash-punk of the Stooges, who recorded three classic albums before calling it quits. Now, Pop has reunited with brothers Ron and Scott Asheton to see if that old fire can be summoned up again by men close to getting Social Security.

Is The Weirdness anything like the old Stooges? Of course not – good lord, Iggy Pop is 60 years old now, and you can't expect this band to thrash and blast about quite like they did when they were young 20-something punks. So change your expectations accordingly, and The Weirdness is an enjoyable sloppy mess that rocks hard.

Iggy's voice has gotten weaker and thinner (it's noticeably strained in a few tunes), but it's still got echoes of the sleazy croon of yore. Time hasn't tarnished the stomp of guitarist Ron Asheton (whose barb-wire riffs help save this album) and his brother, drummer Scott Asheton, while Mike Watt of the Minutemen and fIREHOSE fame steps in on bass to replace the late Dave Alexander.

Producer Steve Albini gives it all a bone-dry, clattering feel. It's like overhearing a band jam in the garage. The Weirdness clearly aims to be the opposite of high-profile, slick band reunions – it feels like it was knocked out in a night or two, and it takes the feral chaos of the old Stooges and reduces it into a kind of Tourette's syndrome geezer rock. All that said, I still find this album rawly appealing.

But with winkingly juvenile lyrics like "My dick is turning into a tree," or "My idea of fun / is killing everyone," it's impossible to take The Weirdness seriously. And I don't think you're supposed to. It's garage punk by dirty old men, taking more than a hint of its sound from the decrepit modern-day Delta blues like the late R.L. Burnside.

The lyrical stupidity doesn't always work – rhyming "Dalai Lama" and "baby mama" in "Free & Freaky"? Oy. While the haze of time has leant the Stooges' original three albums the gloss of perfection, they too were gritty, raw and sloppy albums by dirty young men. (The endless drone of "We Will Fall" on their 1969 debut comes to mind.) There's always been an element of amateurism to the Stooges.

While it rattles along, there's high points on The Weirdness, like the title track where Iggy summons up his deep Bowie voice for a churning anthem. Goofily inane "I'm Fried" roars with a fire close to the Fun House-era Stooges, while "The End of Christianity" aims to tick off liberals and conservatives alike.

The Weirdness might not rise to the level of classic, but neither is it an embarrassment. Don't expect the sinister menace of the 1960s Stooges, but something kind of like a greasy old man ranting away in an alleyway with a mean backing band. If that's your bag too, this Weirdness might be for you.

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