Drowned in Sound: The Stooges - The Weirdness

Drowned in Sound
The Stooges - The Weirdness
by Kodi McKinney, DJ at U92

There was once a time when the Stooges were truly a radical band. Their instruments were played with little regard for traditional style, frontman Iggy Pop was known to smear peanut butter on himself during concerts, and many people absolutely hated them. But in the 30 years between their classic Raw Power and newest album, The Weirdness, they have become revered as the godfathers of punk. Now it seems that the Stooges have found something even more dangerous: subtlety.
Of course, the idea that subtlety is threatening seems contradictory, but it is for a band that has never sounded remotely close to understated. For proof of their old style, consider the dissonant guitar work of "Trollin'." It's raw, wrong, and ugly despite the modern production values. Producer Steve Albini (known partially for Nirvana's In Utero) manages to keep the guitar and drum tones vibrant without burying how deranged it all sounds. However, in much the same way that In Utero suffered from the dry mix on Kurt Cobain's vocals, Iggy shows just how much mileage he's put on his poor vocal cords.
In fairness to Mr. Pop, classic punk was never too concerned with precise pitch. Yet on otherwise great throwbacks such as "You Can't Have Friends," he whiffs the high notes with almost comical panache. Iggy's snarl can still fill in the gaps when it has to, but nothing on The Weirdness reaches the level of savagery he displayed on older material like "Search and Destroy." He even attempts to croon on the title track, possibly in either a fit of irony or temporary insanity; this particular effort is punctuated by Ron Asheton's unusually heartfelt leads.
Listening to The Weirdness for its lyrical content would be like running through a minefield because you'd like to see the explosions. In other words, don't. This is clearly not meant to be taken seriously, and most of what comes out of Iggy's mouth seems intended as dumb fun. Be prepared for cornball sexual and political references that come out of nowhere. Some might recoil instantly in response; I say it adds an all-too-fitting guilty pleasure vibe.
Right around "My Idea of Fun," the Stooges dig an IV pathway through your ear canals that they proceed to pump full of adrenaline. It's a tantalizing taste of their glory days, when they indiscriminately bludgeoned listeners only to find that a few loved the punishment. That band doesn't show up for long on The Weirdness, and the glimpses get scarcer as the second half dissolves into filler. What they show instead on this album is a sense of self-awareness, possibly that their previous nastiness is perhaps a little too fondly remembered. So they gave us something slightly different, as if to snidely insist that they aren't quite Rock and Roll Hall of Fame material yet. And as awkward and messy as the end result is, it's all the more cool for it.
Rating: 3 out of 5