Boy howdy, the Stooges are influential! Shit, didn’t you know? Well now you do.
Actually, this tidbit is something we’re all supposed to know. You know, like
it’s one of those things you nod your head and abide to when you’re a big rock
and roll fan, even if you don’t like the group. “Oh yeah, that’s when Iggy Pop
was really radical,” you’re supposed to say. When he was writhing on stage and
cutting himself up with broken beer bottles and shooting smack and all that
crazy Detroit shit. And debuting at the tail end of the ‘60s with this garage
sound? Man, that was just unheard of! Which, maybe it was for a lot of people
who hadn’t noticed that another band called The Velvet Underground had been
around since ’67 (on vinyl, anyway) and doing it much better.
Anyhow, the dear folks at Rhino have seen fit to do up both the Stooges’ debut
and followup Fun House as deluxe two-disc sets as is all the rage anymore when remastering golden moldies. You get the original album on the first disc, and
then a bunch of outtakes and/or demos on the second. Needless to say what has
been in the musical closet should often remain there. I mean, hands up all those
people out there who actually sit through those DVDs with four hours of bonus
features and leftover footage. Exactly. I don’t need to see cutting room crap
for Mean Girls no matter how hot I think Lindsay Lohan is. Er, was.
And so it goes for both of these discs. Especially the debut album, where the
majority of the disc is repeated in the “Original John Cale Mix”. Tell me, o
Lord, why this mix wasn’t remastered as well? First thing you’ll notice on all
the tracks is the ungodly amount of hiss. The guitars are pushed farther back in
the mix as well, and all too soon the bonus disc of goodies is rendered
pointless. Besides, the Stooges’ first album really isn’t all that exciting.
Everything on the Nuggets box set completely smokes this crap, and one gets the
feeling that that kind of unknown garage rock is exactly what was influencing Iggy and Co. The most interesting thing on the debut (Hint: it ain’t “1969” or
‘I Wanna Be Your Dog”) is the long and boring “We Will Fall” that is everything
Jim Morrison ever wanted to be. Vaguely creepy with a semi-gothic chant in the
background and lyrics about sex in motel rooms, but without the drunken, idiotic
wannabe Rimbaud posing.
Something happened in between the debut and Fun House, however. Maybe it was the
heroin. Maybe it was the volume of the guitars. Who knows. History has marked it
as being better than the debut LP, and I can’t disagree here. Somewhere online
you can find a review of Fun House that I wrote a few years back where I’m
absolutely going gaga over it. OK, look, since then I woke up and realized that
only half the album is good. The original second side is pretty much a piece of
shit, with the shut down of “L.A. Blues” being even less interesting than Lou
Reed’s Metal Machine Music. Go figure. But the first three songs, “Down on the
Street,” “Loose,” and “T.V. Eye,” still resonate well enough that they’ll make
you feel tough inside and instigate some object smashing. So a few points for
The bonus disc for Fun House features some demos and various takes of a few of
the album’s songs, as well as the tune “Slide (Slidin’ The Blues)” and hilarious
single mixes of “Down on the Street” and “1970.” Rhino had already previously
exhausted this album for some unknown reason under their Handmade imprint and
the Fun House Sessions release. OK, it may have been a landmark album, but no
one in their right mind would want to sit through every single take of this
The remastering on both of these reissues is stellar and is a complete
improvement over the former CD versions. That still doesn’t mean you need to
plunk down for them again, unless you just gotta have those bonuses. For my
money, Raw Power is the best Stooges album anymore. At least on that one, they
were breaking away from the two-chord doldrums that flood the first two albums.
Again, Lou Reed and the Velvets did that whole thing better. Lou still does it
better, for that matter. Bottom line is these reissues would have been way
cooler had they just been done up as single album entities with zero bonuses. A
few points for the terrific remastering, but deductions must be taken in the end
for the mostly pointless bonus discs. Amen.