READY TO DIE
Iggy and the Stooges
Iggy Pop circles back four decades with Ready to Die, collaborating anew with the surviving Stooges who made Raw Power, the 1973 album that was belatedly recognized as a protopunk landmark. Ready to Die is more historically self-conscious than Raw Power; no doubt deliberately, it runs less than a minute longer than the 34-minute Raw Power LP. But its attitude stays brash.
Ready to Die reunites Iggy with the guitarist James Williamson; they wrote the songs on Raw Power together. But soon afterward, in 1974, the Stooges disintegrated amid drugs, audience hostility and band conflicts. Although Williamson helped write and produce Iggy’s solo albums until 1980, their collaboration ended acrimoniously. Williamson turned to electrical engineering and eventually became vice president of technology standards for Sony.
Iggy regrouped a Stooges lineup with Ron Asheton on guitar, in 2003, and after Asheton died in 2009, Williamson rejoined the Stooges, his return to performing after more than 30 years. For Ready to Die, the band also includes Scott Asheton (Ron’s brother) on drums, from the original Stooges, with a post-punk admirer, Mike Watt from the Minutemen and Firehose, on bass.
Iggy has dipped into many styles through the years; on his 2012 album, Apres, he made himself a retro French chanteur. But Ready to Die does exactly what’s expected of a Stooges album.
Drums kick, guitar riffs churn and Iggy taunts and sneers at the world, terse and unbridled. “I’m a hanging judge of the world I’m in,” he declares in the album’s title song. In longtime Iggy style, the songs set out to push hot buttons, with titles like Burt, Sex and Money and Dirty Deal (snarling about a recording contract). Yet while Iggy leers dutifully in DD’s, he’s not the rampaging libido he was on Raw Power. Now, at 66 (and still going shirtless onstage), he’s got things on his mind like the economy — “I got a job but it don’t pay” he barks in Job — and the violence in American culture; “Murderers can stand their ground/ain’t nobody else around,” he sings in Gun.
But it’s the Stooges sound that carries the album: Williamson’s riffs, guitars and old-school production. The beat has the muscle and fluctuations of a live rhythm section. The rhythm and lead guitars keep a distorted edge and they grapple and claw their way through the songs, affirming that the Stooges were as much post-Rolling Stones as pre-punk. As on Raw Power, the band sometimes allows itself to slow down: in The Departed, a tribute to Ron Asheton, and in Unfriendly World. In those songs, Williamson deploys his acoustic and slide guitars and Iggy turns melodic and sage: “Is it worth this pain to grow?/I guess I’ll never know.” Iggy and the Stooges know they aren’t wild kids any more, but they’re not going away quietly.
— JON PARELES, NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE
LIFE ON A ROCK
Blue Chair/Columbia Nashville
To hear Kenny Chesney tell it, Life on a Rock is a placeholder between the sort of albums that made him one of the biggest country stars of the first decade of the 2000s, albums filled with churning Americana rock and lilting country-beach-bum anthems. Chesney is a superstar, the idea goes, and therefore can do what he wants.
Except when he can’t, of course. This album’s single, the lumpy and cheerful Pirate Flag, sounds like it could have belonged to any Chesney album of the last few years and is one of two songs on this album on which he has no writing credit.