Iggy Pop & The Stooges
Released: April 1973
Chart Peak: #182
Weeks Charted: 3
The Ig. Nobody dies it better, nobody does it worse, nobody does it, period. Others tiptoe around the edges, make little running stars and half-hearted passes, but when you're talking about the O mind, the very central eye of the universe that opens up like a huge, gaping, suckling maw, step aside for the Stooges.
They haven't appeared on record since the Funhouse of two plus years ago. For awhile, it didn't look as if they were ever going to get close again. The band shuffled personnel like a deck of cards, their record company exhibited a classic loss of faith, drugs and depression took inevitable tolls. At their last performance in New York, the nightly highlight centered around Iggy chocking and throwing up onstage, only to encore quoting Renfield from Dracula: "Flies," and whose mad orbs could say it any better, "big juicy flies...and spiders..."
Well, we all have our little lapses, don't we? With Raw Power, the Stooges return with a vengeance, exhibiting all the ferocity that characterized them at their livid best, offering a taste of the TV eye to anyone with nerve enough to put their money where their lower jaw flaps. There are no compromises, no attempts to soothe or play games into a fable wider audience. Raw Power is the pot of quicksand at the end of the rainbow, and if that doesn't sound attractive, then you've been living on borrowed time for far too long.
The band is a motherhumper. Ron Asheton has switched over to bass, joining brother Scott in the rhythm section, while James Williamson has taken charge of lead; the power trio that this brings off has to be heard to be believed. For the first time, the Stooges have used the recording studio as more than a recapturing of their live show,and with David Bowie helping out in the mix, there is an ongoing swirl of sound that virtually drags you into the speakers, guitars rising and falling, drums edging forward and then toppling back into the morass. Iggy similarly benefits, double and even triple-tracked, his voice covering a range of frequencies only an (I wanna be your) dog could properly appreciate, arch-punk over tattling sniveler over chewed microphone.
Cut to "Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell," first called "Hard to Beat" and the original title ditched in favor of Funhouse's "1970." If it didn't seem like such a relic of the past, the Grande Ballroom would have to be resurrected for this one, high-tailing it all the way from Iggy's opening Awright! through James' hot-wired guitar to a lavish, lovingly extended coda which'll probably be Iggy's cue to trot around the audience when they ultimately bring it onstage. "Penetration" closes off the side, the Stooges at their most sensual, lapping at the old in-out in a hypnotic manner than might even hae a crack at the singles games. Clive and Columbia's promotion men willing.
"Raw Power" flips the record over, and the title track is a sure sign that things aren't about to cool down. "Row Power is a boilin' soul/Got a son called rock 'n' roll," and when was the last time you heard anything like that? "I Need Somebody" builds from a vague St. James Infirmary" resemblance to neatly counterpoint "Gimme Danger," Iggy on his best behavior here, while "Shake Appeal" is the throwaway, basically a half-developed riff boosted by a nice performance, great guitar break, and some on-the-beam handclaps. Leaving the remains for "Death Trip" to finish it off, the only logical follow-up to "L.A. Blues" and all that came after, crawl on your belly down the long line of bespattered history as the world shudders to its final apocryphal release.
I never drink...wine.
- Lenny Kaye, Rolling Stone, 5/10/73.
This is where rock-and-roll separates the men from the boys, if you'll pardon the expression. The Stooges used to be a standing joke around my house (I still can't really listen to their Elektra albums), but not any more; songs like "Search and Destroy" and "Gimme Danger" are about the purest rock anyone has made in ages, and James Williamson gets my vote as guitarist of the century.
- Steve Simels, Stereo Review, 2/74.
Probably the strongest effort yet from this powerful rock band. Nobody has ever accused Iggy Pop of possessing a good voice, but he does have one of the most maniacal voices in rock, and the Stooges, with James Williamson now handling lead guitar, are much improved as a band over their last album some two years ago. Though an extremely visual act, the band manages to push their brand of deviant rock well on disk. Best cuts: "Search And Destroy," "Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell," "Raw Power."
- Billboard, 1973.
In which David Bowie remembers "the world's forgotten boy" long enough to sponsor an album -- and mixes it down till it's thin as an epicure's wrist. The side-openers, "Search and Destroy" and "Raw Power," voice the Iggy Pop ethos more insanely (and aggressively) than "I Wanna Be Your Dog." But despite James Williamson's guitar, the rest disperses in their wake. B+
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
The title says it all. The blueprint for the Sex Pistols and the entire punk rock movement. * * * * *
- Cub Koda, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
The Stooges' Fun House (1970) and Raw Power (1973) are molten slamfests that are essential touchstones for every form of aggressive rock that came after -- from 70s heavy metal to punk to speed metal and thrash. Lots of blitzkrieg, but no bop. (Nike used the song "Search and Destroy" from Raw Power during its commercials for the 1996 Summer Olympics.) * * * * 1/2
- Gary Graff, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.
The blueprint for punk, this eight-song album is full of sound, fury and chaos. Raw Power is a defiantly ugly album. The cover shows Iggy as a made-up rock mannequin, bare-chested and coolly defiant, against a plain black background. There's no mention of a title, nor of the artist, which is either a willfully anti-commercial move or an egotistical vanity (unfortunately, given the state of Iggy's mind at the time, it's probably the latter). It was around this time that Iggy appeared at Rodney's English Disco in New York and cut his chest to threads -- he'd actually promised to commit suicide. The music inside is defiance itself. "Search and Destroy" is ramshackle, all slashing guitars and lyrical violence -- and it gave rise to a great t-shirt courtesy of Vivienne Westwood. "Penetration" is an insinuating lech of a song, hissed vocals that degenerate into unhinged yabbering at the end; Williamson turns in a splenetic solo. "Raw Power" starts with a grunt. It's primeval rock'n'roll -- chugging guitar, nagging piano and Jerry-Lee-Lewis-on-speed vocal -- an angry rejection of all and sundry. On the closing "Death Trip," Williamson pulls out tortuous squalls of guitar over which Iggy lets rip with demented yowls and grim one-liners. It's a crash course in what rock'n'roll is all about -- the Clash would record their first-ever demos in the same studio, three years later.
- Collins Gem Classic Albums, 1999.
While I retain a wide place in my heart for the loutish, dunt-dunt-dunt anthems, the three-chord odes to boredom that comprise the first Stooges album, and for the insane free-jazz squall of their second, Funhouse, it is their third, Raw Power, which stands as the band's high-water mark. Nothing, not even the previous two, could have prepared me for my first encounter with that record: newbie James Williamson's paint-peeling guitar, pure treble, blasting through my speakers with Iggy's apeshit screaming on "Search and Destroy." The taut, acoustic "Gimme Danger," which dissolves three-quarters of the way through into washes of feedback that are almost, somehow, poignant. If I'd never heard music like this before it's because it didn't exist, and still doesn't, really, apart from this album.
Williamson is brilliant throughout, as on the flame-fingered "Shake Appeal" (lurid by even this band's formidable standard), the shivering riffage of "Penetration" (ditto).
But this is Iggy's record, of course: On "Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell," he opens up and delivers a vocal so tremorous, so crusted with gravel and dirt, it sounds like he's singing from the center of the earth. Elsewhere, as on the punishing title track, he delivers no more -- and no less -- than the title implies. But any number of singers, before and since (especially since), can claim to deliver "Raw Power." None but Iggy have done so with such a soulful control, such an electrical almost an elegant vitality. He invents and inhabits these songs, so that even the most unremarkable among them (the lurching bluesy "I Need Somebody," for instance) becomes thrilling.
It's alarming, if not entirely surprising, to consider that the band's record label, Elektra, was reluctant to release the album at the time; only David Bowie's intelligent, if emasculating, remix of the chaotic master tapes persuaded them.
Years later, Pop remixed it again, and it still sounds like shit. Grimy, trebly, and murky all at once. This, of course, is the album's glory: a sound that cannot, really, be captured; that refuses, somehow, to stand and give a coherent account of itself. All the best rock 'n' roll is like this, however, and it's difficult to imagine it ever gets better than Raw Power.
Raw Power was voted the 69th greatest album of all time in a VH1 poll of over 700 musicians, songwriters, disc jockeys, radio programmers, and critics in 2003.
- Matthew Specktor, VH1's 100 Greatest Albums, 2003.
Iggy Pop had dyed silver hair and a hard-drug habit when David Bowie took the rudderless Stooges under his wing and helped get them a deal with Columbia. "With Bowie," Pop wrote in his 1982 book, I Need More, "I didn't feel compelled to go to sleep every time something unpleasant happened." Under Bowie's aegis, the Stooges -- with new guitarist James Williamson, who co-wrote all the material with Pop -- cut this proto-punk-rock classic, originally issued in a cloth-eared-Bowie mix. But the wafer-thin sonics couldn't conceal the hellbent ferocity of "Search and Destroy," "Penetration" and "You Pretty Face Is Going to Hell."
Raw Power was chosen as the 125th greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.
- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.
The image of a defiant, staring Iggy Pop on Raw Power's cover perfectly encapsulates his response to the trials and tribulations he went through before this album took shape. After an unhappy relationship with their label Elektra, who had mismarketed the band's first two albums and ditched them before their third took shape, Pop had disbanded the Stooges and escaped Detroit to hook up with David Bowie in New York.
At Bowie's suggestion, Iggy and guitarist James Williamson decamped to London to record Raw Power. There, Pop re-recruited Ron and Scotty Asheton, the brothers who made up The Stooges' primal rhythm section. The genteel surroundings of "Merrie Olde (England)," as Pop put it, in no way tempered the raucous machismo of Raw Power; indeed, the record could not be further from the sexual ambiguity of the glam rock that Bowie and others were touting at the time. Pop's vision for the record was ambitious -- initial mixes of "Search and Destroy" featured the sound of a sword fight, while "Penetration" utilized that rock 'n' roll staple, the celeste (a keyboard of orchestral bells) -- but the driving guitar of Williamson and the raw stomp of the Ashetons keep the album simple and centered firmly in the belly and the balls.
Columbia hated the album, viewing it as even less accessible than the band's material for Elektra, and charged Bowie with salvaging what he could from the mess. Thankfully, Bowie paid heed to Iggy's vision, and delivered eight tracks that influenced the proto-punks of New York and London and secured Pop's legacy as the movement's godfather.
- Seth Jacobson, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.
It's also got curious origin stories. Plagued by various addictions, the Stooges lapsed into an extended limbo after the band's second album, Funhouse, flopped in 1970. David Bowie, then flying high in his Ziggy Stardust guise, encouraged Iggy Pop to try again. Pop -- known to New York Times readers as Mr. Pop and to his mom as James Newell Osterberg -- agreed to a deal brokered by Bowie, which gave the star control over the final product. (Bowie mixed most of the album, attempting to correct what he heard as sonic flaws; Pop did the wilder mix in "Search and Destroy.")
To most rock ears, the initial version was plenty edgy for a rock record in 1973 -- its torrents of distorted buzzsaw guitar, from newest Stooge James Williamson, proved the perfect counterpoint to Pop's howling, proudly lewd declarations. But Pop and the Stooges knew that the original tracks held more sonic mayhem -- elements Bowie's mix didn't exactly optimize. Fans of the record knew it too, as bootlegged versions of Pop's initial mixes circulated widely.
So when Columbia invited Pop to remix Raw Power in 1997, he seized the chance to right an old wrong, as he explains in the liner notes: "This is a wonderful album but it's always sounded fragile and rickety, and the band was not fragile and rickety." Sure enough, the new version expands the smudgy guitar distortion into an enveloping roar, and amps up the rhythm section so than even when it's playing things straight, on a genius song like "Shake Appeal," it sounds like it's blowing rock convention to bits. This, of course, was Pop's guiding vision all along -- music so brutal, it carries a physical jolt. Mission accomplished, Mr. Pop.
- Tom Moon, 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die, 2008.
(2010 30th Anniversary Edition) To even hear the rhythm section on co-producer David Bowie's 1973 mix of Raw Power, you need to crank the volume until it feels like James Williamson's reckless guitar leads are piercing your skull. That's the vicious beauty of it. A 1997 reissue of the album experimented with a thicker, less dynamic mix; this new version reinstates Bowie's trebly, off-kilter production while adding clarity and heft the original LP lacked. Finally, the third and most brutal album from these Detroit legends gets both the rawness and the power it deserves.
Iggy Pop delivers these desperate anthems as if he's lived every self-mythologizing line. "I'm a runaway son of the nuclear A-bomb," he rants in "Search and Destroy," embodying glam rock's theatricality while dumping its affectations. New band member Williamson, along with bassist Ron Asheton and drummer brother Scott Asheton, flail in a synchronized wallop that almost single-handedly invented punk. This new deluxe edition adds an equally unhinged 1973 Atlanta performance with confrontational banter and previously unreleased spasms like "Cock in My Pocket," plus a third disc of outtakes, a "Making of Raw Power" documentary DVD and testimonials from acolytes such as Lou Reed, Joan Jett, Tom Morello, Henry Rollins and Chrissie Hynde. Every addition adds insight to a band literally addicted to danger. * * * * *
- Barry Walters, Rolling Stone, 4/29/10.
"I'm a streetwalking cheetah with a heart full of napalm," the inimitable rock animal Iggy Pop snarls at the beginning of this ferocious blast of proto-punk energy (a brief sampling of parent-terrifying song titles: "Search and Destroy," "Penetration," "Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell"). Nihilism doesn't get any better.
Raw Power was chosen as the 70th greatest album of all time by the editors of Entertainment Weekly in July 2013.
- Entertainment Weekly, 7/5/13.
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