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Album Review
Ready To Die

Ready To Die
by Iggy and The Stooges

Fat Possum

Review Date
21st May 2013
Reviewed by
Ricardo Kerr

Not many punk acts get a second chance:  those that do tend to squander it or entirely sell out of their founding belief and even fewer still get a third chance. Iggy Pop, arguably the original proponent of rock and roll anarchy, has had far more than that. He went from being music's most dangerous man to a shadow of his former self in the late 70s and 80s. Without the grunt of The Stooges behind him he fell on hard times. Even when he did return with his salad days band in 2003 it was only to retread the glory days and release the half-baked The Weirdness album. Ready To Die is an earnest attempt to not only right some of the past wrongs but to finally put a good foot forward.

This is the version of The Stooges that released the legendary Raw Power way back in 1973 (with Mike Watt replacing the late Ron Asheton on bass). This edition is a well-oiled machine and up to the daunting task set before them: create another classic Stooges record. Iggy himself has been following his own muse for the last number of years – entirely detached from his leathery messiah status. His last two records (2012's Apres and 2009's Preliminaires) have dabbled in covering the standards, light jazz, French pop, and puzzling diversions into spoken word. It seems that Iggy Pop is desperate to widen the public perception of him from his already storied past. So what does returning to his old wheelhouse with The Stooges really accomplish? Luckily Ready To Die is not the predictable affair that it might appear.

This record is born from an old school rock and roll ethos. The band show up, kick ass, and leave you with exactly what you paid for and a bloody lip. The guitars howl and the drums kick in all the right ways. This is kinetic, muscular music from a band who defined that style all those years ago. The blasts dirty saxophone, courtesy of longtime associate Steve Mackay, is a prominent player in the album's enthralling sleaze. With song title like 'Sex and Money', 'DD's', and 'Gun' you need an eye for a knowing kind of stupidity to elevate the material above frat-boy humour. Added to their existing formula is a dose of working man's blues on 'Job'. “I gotta job but it don't pay shit” bellows Iggy and you feel compelled to believe him. Nobody becomes a millionaire out of punk rock excess.

Even an outfit with the bruising reputation of The Stooges can surprise you with their candor and honesty. 'The Departed' is an acoustic country-style number that ruminates on the inevitable passage of time and the pitfalls of growing old. It doesn't hurt either that the opening guitar echoes the ghost of 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' – creating continuity between the band as they stand today and their infamous origins. This is a subject matter that this band knows a thing or two about and the pathos is welcome. It makes these fabled hell-raisers appear inescapably human for the first time in many years. The candor fits their elder statesman status and you want to cheer for the proverbial last man standing. Perhaps they are finally ready to die but for our sake I hope that is not the case.


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