Mike Watt on stage with the Stooges




The Weirdness rolls as the Stooges return (cont.)

EA: That's a hell of an honor.

MW: It's doofy for me to talk about this in a way. Because I don't want to sound like I'm all full of myself and conceited, you know?

EA: Nah, it's ok. … When you're on stage with Stooges, do you ever have to watch Iggy just because you're scared that he's going to jump on you, for fear for your own health?

MW: He's jumped on me many times.

EA: (laughter)

MW: He knocked me down once in Holland this summer, because I did take my eyes off him for a second

EA: (more laughter)

MW: But I kept playing. I mean, I hit the deck, got it all sweaty, but I kept playing. On the stage, he has a very strong work ethic. He approaches it like working the room, like old vaudeville. There are some old traditions with this band. He doesn't take it for granted, he's not going to sleepwalk, just connect the dots, and he really wants to make it in the moment. So to get things whooped up, he'll run into me and stuff, jump on me, jump on my amp and knock me into my amp. But usually I'm ready for him, I'm a little bit taller, I can take the blows. But this one time at the Lowlands Festival in Holland, maybe that's a lesson there, can't take my eyes off him. (Laughter by all). It is funny and I've never taken it as a negative thing, a personal thing. I'd let him roll me over with a lawnmower. (More laughter)

EA: If I'm on stage with Iggy Pop, he can run into me anytime.

MW: Yeah, no problem.

EA: The album itself, what is it going to sound like? Is it going to remind us of old Stooges, or is it breaking into a whole new kind of genre?

MW: You haven't heard it either?

EA: No.

MW: Well, I haven't heard it mixed. At the moment of it being recorded, it sounded really good. It's not exactly Fun House or the first album, but it's really slammin'. Ronnie's playing some blazing leads, I mean, smoking leads. And Scottie's really slamming that strong groove defined the two original albums. And Iggy's got these great words, and he's singing top notch. It was really raw (the recording process), you know, not a lot of takes, but really playing down, paying a lot of attention to details.

But I wouldn't say that it's a retread, like they just took the old songs, switched parts around. All these songs have their own lives.

But there is something timeless about Fun House or something, it doesn't sound that dated, in a way. When I hear a lot of records from that period, Fun House sounds like it could have been recorded next week. But I think this album lives in its own world. And you can tell it’s Stooges, but not a retread. It's not really self conscious either, it's liberated. I'm a fan, what can I say. (Laughter). It's hard to describe. God, I wish you could here it, and then you can tell me.

* * *

Well, I’ve heard it now, and there were several highlights from the album for me.

The album flows quite nicely, with great riffs and killer leads. Ron Asheton come back into the guitar-god scene without missing a beat. Scott Asheton's drumming is so full of life and groovy that one would think it's coming from a 16-year-old practicing in his basement, not from someone who is probably only a few years away from arthritis. And although Mike Watt's bass sounds nothing like Mike Watt, it still moves the music and does not take the back seat (even though I wish it would sound a bit more “Wattish”).

But the drawback of the album is the lyrics. I can honestly say that this album contains some of the worst, most uninspired, clichéd words I have ever had to endure. At times they can be humorous; at times they are not that bad. And at times they really ruin the listening experience. A few quick examples: "My idea of fun, is killing everyone;" "No you can’t have friends, nobody wants you but yourself, they all think you're someone else."

The worst are Iggy's attempts at free association. On “Free and Freaky,” he actually sings this gem: "Alabama/ Dalai Lama/Baby mama/Madonna/Benihana/ Intifada." “I'm Fried,” a great song otherwise, is ruined by the line, "Deep fried, refried, stir fried ... I'm friiiieeeeddd.”

Even still, there are several highlights that make this a record worth keeping. “Idea of Fun” is the band’s political statement. Even though it has the aforementioned terrible line, it still is one of the stronger tracks on the album; and one great line: "now is the season for war with no reason". And the chorus is so nauseatingly catchy that you will be humming is for days to come.

“The Weirdness” sounds like it could have been taken directly from Lust For Life, complete with a very Bowie-ish melody and productions. And the wah wah horns add a very nice touch.

And, of course, “I'm Fried.” If you don't listen to the lyrics, this song is one of the better pure rock tracks of the past few years. It definitely lives in a world of its own, and has great saxophone solo at the end. Just remember, listening to the lyrics could result in premature birth, impotence and in some cases, early death.

Musically, the record’s most closely resembles a cross between Dinosaur Jr. and recent Pearl Jam (even Steve Albini's production sounds like the work of Adam Kasper on last year’s Pearl Jam).

And Iggy's voice sounds younger that it has on any of his other records. He sounds young, bored, alive and fierce — everything one could want from a punk front man.

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E-mail Elie Adelman at elie@staticandfeedback.com