Wednesday, October 10, 2007

No. 185: The Stooges

Band: The Stooges
Album: The Stooges
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Largely recorded versions of the band's live set at the time, this debut album is full of hard-edged rock and roll songs. Largely considered "proto-punk," "The Stooges" showed punk rock how to act and has been copied countless times.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: It's not exactly the most complicated thing ever to come out. The lyrics sound like they're out of a cheap rhyming dictionary and the guitar work, while hard, is short, rhythmic and repetitive.
Best song: "I Wanna Be Your Dog" is pretty great.
Worst song: "We Will Fall" is really out of place, but a nice experiment. Really, "Little Doll" and "Real Cool Time" are really stupid.
Is it awesome?: I guess. In the way cave paintings are awesome.

Pitchfork's review of "The Stooges" (coupled in a review with the band's second record, "Fun House") has this line in it:

There were other subversive, confrontational rock acts before the Stooges-- the cover of the band's eponymous debut even subtly references the Doors' own self-titled album-- but nobody before them had the good sense to take it as far over the top as they did.

I don't necessarily disagree with any of this; It's probably true. But, I guess my aversion to punk rock's adolescent angst plays into this, as well as my growing up in a time when punk has been co-opted into mainstream culture so much (hell, Iggy Pop's "Lust For Life" is in car commercials and "Blitzkrieg Bop" is played at Yankee games). But, I just don't dig on this idea of obnoxious kids playing loud, repetitive music. That may have been great in the late '60s and certainly, I'm thankful that it happened, but I can't say it's my favorite thing in the world.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that "The Stooges" is important, but it gets real old, real fast. The songs you know -- "No Fun" and "I Wanna Be Your Dog" -- are all geat, but the rest of the record is mostly repetitive dreck. "1969" really does have some of the most simple lyrics I've ever heard (Pop rhymes "fun and one," "OK and USA" and "you and do..." all in the first verse!) and "We Will Fall" is long, drawn-out and boring. Pop mostly just chants on it while producer John Cale's viola wails. It's a nice experiment, on some level, but seems completely out of place here.

"Little Doll" is typical testosterone-fueled idiot music while "Real Cool Time" wouldn't sound out of place on that Andrew W.K. record. This is punk rock at its most primal, which means clubbing cavewomen over the head as much as it says important music moment.


Bands that have covered songs from this record:

  • The Ramones

  • Joe Strummer (on tour)

  • Uncle Tupelo

  • Slayer

  • Sid Vicious

I'm sure there are many more, but those are the biggest names.


Allmusic calls it "clarion calls in the punk rock revolution," which is about right. I prefer to agree with what Robert Christgau calls it: "Stupid-rock at its best."

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