Wednesday, 6 February 2008



Few album-opening songs possess as much punch as “Search And Destroy”.  As James Williamson powers his way into proceedings before quickly pulling back on the reigns, the horse has already before Iggy Pop has even entered the fray.  And when he does his arrival is akin to championship fighter smashing his way to title.  It is a song that leaves the listener out of breath let alone the orchestra that created it.  The result is music composed on a knife-edge, a rare example of a band sounding like they are playing for their lives.  Very few acts have ever accomplished this.

Raw Power was the third Stooges album.  Technically the original band had long officially broken up.  However David Bowie took Pop to London where he was hooked up with Williamson as the Asheton brothers returned to fold with Ron now relegated to bass.  This was a new Stooges and whether it was a better one remains open to debate.  However regardless of who was backing him and where, it would always be Pop front and centre taking and delivering the shots.

This is a very different animal to both “Fun House” and “The Stooges”, the guitar is more reckless, not as thick but more schizophrenic as the pace is upped and hooks grow wider.  That is until label insisted ballads.

Of course no record could ever sustain the intensity and gold of “Search And Destroy” and immediately the tempo of the piece calms with “Gimme Danger”.  Suddenly now the guitar feels reduced in the mix as a meandering heavy baseline rumbles through and subtle cowbell inhabits proceedings.  Thankfully Pop manages to carry the song and by the time Williamson actually wakes up the song does accomplish something of a gnarly cacophony.

“Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell” feels an amusingly sloppy piece of work where the vocals of Pop sound throaty, angry and about to give out at any second.  This may or may not to be something to do with the excessive nature of Williamson’s intrusive solos that fortunately only feel laughable as opposed to a spoiling factor.

By the time record arrives at the title track the personality of the piece has long been established and it’s not strictly the best one.  The track experiences a weird piano accompaniment that perhaps distracts from the rest of the playing, not least the Asheton brothers who really do feel in the shade.  Then for the final minute the song is subjected to a jarring solo from Williamson that could just as easily go wrong as it does right.

Of course the main bone of contention with this record has always been the mix.  More or less as ever with these things the powers that be (Columbia) wanted a pop album (well, one with ballads) but naturally the players wanted a rock album.  However Pop did get to produce the recording of the album only to fuck it up (for example using only three tracks of a twenty four track tape) which led to Bowie coming on board to remix the results, which he did in a single day, save for “Search And Destroy” which Pop insisted remain his mix and is perhaps why the track always served as an initial shot in the arm only to be dulled by the blunt takes that followed.  In his defence, Bowie didn’t have much to work with.  And this was LP version that I bought from Clacton indoor market circa 1996.

Then in the nineties Henry Rollins happened across the master tapes in Europe and for a while was suggested to do a modern remix of the album.  Eventually that idea fizzled out as Pop also declined to do the job.  However when Columbia decided to go through with a reissue of the album Pop felt the need to do the job.  And the job pretty saw him endeavouring to make Raw Power the loudest album ever complete with a new degree of distortion.  In addition to this though the bass sound is vastly improved and a general increase in speaker smasher power.

Personally I always found the Bowie mix to muddy and trudgy with the band occasionally slipping into sounding like some kind of Doors off cut.  However equally this is perhaps down to my aged vinyl copy.  The modern mix is just the one, it rasps and snatches in all the right players and slaps the listener across the face and grabs the attention in a manner previously not experienced (by me).

Ultimately though this record feels like too much hard work, that there was too much effort involved without a conclusive decision.  “Fun House” is The Stooges masterpiece, not this over the limit spectacle.

Back to “Search And Destroy” though and for years this has now been a much used and covered song.  Of note was the manner in which even the Red Hot Chili Peppers were not able to ruin the song when they did a cover of it on the Beavis And Butt compilation.  Also in addition to this the fact that Wes Anderson used the track as Steve Zissou’s hero storm in The Life Aquatic made for one of the most pleasing moments of sync in modern movie history.  There are not many songs you could imagine the man saving the day to.

Sometimes you only need one song from an album.

Thesaurus moment: procrastination.


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