Iggy may have subtly rebranded his Stooges in the wake of Ron Asheton’s sudden death in 2009, but that’s one of reassuringly few things to have changed about these garage rock icons in the decade since they re-formed. Unless you count the reinvention of their patented sleaze-punk sound in the form of new material – that appears to have improved since 2007’s occasionally inspired but more often lumbering The Weirdness.
For that, you’re bound to credit the reappearance of James Williamson. The man who shunted Ron Asheton sideways onto bass when he joined the band in 1970 once again replaces the Stooges’ original power-chord machine, and there’s something so splendidly scuzzy about that iconic guitar sound that it makes the squalling riffs of opening track Burn a pleasure to behold. The echoes of his signature sound are unmistakable, and you wonder if even the slightly undernourished production is a deliberate nod to the famously lo-fi sonic anaemia of Raw Power.
There’s more déjà vu to be found within the three-chord framework of Job as it echoes the classic Loose. And even if lines like ‘I got a job but it don’t pay shit’ are unlikely to be autobiographical coming from a singer who commands six figures a show and a guitarist who used to be Vice-President of Technology Standards at Sony Electronics, it shows they can still write meat-and-potatoes punk rock as effectively as ever.
Sex And Money may sound faintly ridiculous coming from a sexagenarian, backed by a female vocalist young enough to be his granddaughter, and DD’s lascivious, sax-honking tribute to the, erm, titular bust measurement is frankly surplus to requirements. But how else did we expect these men to grow old, if not disgracefully? Like most pensioners, Iggy fares better with anger than he does with lust, and Gun is vintage stuff, a superb low-slung boogie soundtracking a Falling Down-style rant about going postal.
The ballads work too, even if they’re delivered in an unfamiliar, Cash-like purr. The pedal steel-tinged Unfriendly World warns about ‘Businessmen with nasty tricks, followers of 666,’ while The Departed is a Mark Lanegan-esque lament to lost youth. ‘Party girls will soon grow old, party boys will lie,’ he growls, and is that a conscious echo of I Wanna Be Your Dog’s rumbling downhill chord progression we detect? Nice touch if so.
‘My lights are all burned out,’ he continues. Cheer up, Mr. Pop. Because Ready To Die suggests Iggy is anything but.