The Stooges [Deluxe Edition]

by: The Stooges

While the Stooges had a few obvious points of influence -- the swagger of the early Rolling Stones, the horny pound of the Troggs, the fuzztone sneer of a thousand teenage garage bands, and the Velvet Underground's experimental eagerness to leap into the void -- they didn't really sound like anyone else around when their first album hit the streets in 1969. It's hard to say if Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton, Dave Alexander, and the man then known as Iggy Stooge were capable of making anything more sophisticated than this, but if they were, they weren't letting on, and the best moments of The Stooges document the blithering and inarticulate fury of the post-adolescent id with stunning accuracy. Ron Asheton's guitar runs (fortified with bracing use of fuzz and wah-wah) are so brutal and concise they achieve a naïve genius, while Scott Asheton's proto-Bo Diddley drums and Dave Alexander's rock-solid bass stomp these tunes into submission with a force that inspires awe. And Iggy's vividly blank vocals fill the "so what?" shrug of a thousand teenagers with a wealth of palpable arrogance and wondrous confusion. Of course, one of the problems with being a trailblazing pioneer is making yourself understood to others, and while former Velvets bassist John Cale seemed sympathetic to what the band was doing, he didn't seem to quite get it, and as a result he made a physically powerful band sound a bit sluggish on tape. This becomes all the more obvious on the deluxe edition of The Stooges that Rhino released in 2005; along with a sharply remastered version of the original LP, it features a bonus disc containing most of Cale's initial mix of the album (which was rejected by both the band and Elektra prexy Jac Holzman), and Cale's versions sound frustratingly hollow, with Iggy's vocals and Ron's guitar standing in uncomfortable relief next to the rhythm section, and the blunt force of the guitar reduced to sludge. Clipping nearly five minutes out of "Ann" didn't help either; the furious coda of the full-length version, unearthed for the first time on the bonus disc, adds a wealth of drama and emotional force to a song that sounds a bit like filler at only three minutes. But "1969," "I Wanna Be Your Dog," "Real Cool Time," "No Fun," and other classic rippers are all on board, and one listen reveals why they became clarion calls in the punk rock revolution. Part of the fun of The Stooges is, then as now, the band managed the difficult feat of sounding ahead of their time and entirely out of their time, all at once, and the expanded edition only reinforces the singular nature of that achievement. ~ Mark Deming

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