Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Iggy & the Stooges, "Death Trip" (1973)


Mythology time. There's an easy case to make for Raw Power as one of the great cursed smoldering monuments in rock 'n' roll, saturated in self-loathing, debilitating drug usage, disillusionment, and incompetent engineering. One more great band poised for a joint swan dive into the cement of an empty Los Angeles swimming pool. Even the titles point to troubles—"Search and Destroy," "Gimme Danger," and "Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell" is how it starts. It ends on the loud, crunching, irresistible, semi-groove "Death Trip," which attacks with a squall that sets nerves on edge even after 30 minutes of this and continues for six more minutes. David Bowie had no idea how to record it in 1972, and Iggy Pop little better how to remix it in 1996. Ultimately neither version may serve the music, but they both serve the mood. What is essential to the Stooges survives well. It's only rock 'n' roll but they like it. None of the well-documented disadvantages diminish that. Indeed, many claim it as the best Stooges album. It's the rawest and most powerful, little question. But it's also occluded, dark, overshadowed by the suspicion that the intimations are all too authentic. It's not fun, and that is core to the set, full of rage and pain and yet for that a minimum of grandstanding. In the moment, by all accounts, they were just trying to make a hit album that seemed more elusive than ever and then go cop in peace. So it is efficiently executed and in many ways that's what counts. Iggy's word association games well up out of a state of near total distraction, the band verges on the pro forma but stays ahead of it because they're just too good, and the finish line is exhaustion and exhilaration. Etch that legend in stone.

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