Read my reviews of the albums The Stooges put out during their first iteration. As you’ll see, I have not listened to the reunion records.
1969: The Stooges (9/10)
It’s probably impossible to convey how raw and aggressive the Stooges sounded on most of these tracks when this record came out. The thing is, this isn’t anything compared to their live performances and almost sells them short a little bit, at least in terms of Pop’s theatricality. But anyway, there was very little precedent for this record in music at the time – The Velvets were as noisy when live, but certainly not as aggressive, and it’s hard to imagine most of the garage bands being this loud, though some of the loudest might have done that in concert. It’s only the MC5 I can think of who compare in terms of volume and aggression but they were considerably more conventional. (Also, they had the benefit of releasing a live album.)
It’s not quite the birth of punk rock – the Stooges are just way too dam arty on this record and it’s successor to be truly “punk” in the sense of what happened in the 1970s – but it definitely the birth of something new, less arty than the Velvets and more primitive but still with intelligence behind it.
1970″ Fun House (10/10)
There is very little music like this prior to the emergence of punk. (For some, I guess, this is punk.)
Arguably more aggressive and difficult than their debut, this albums is both as garage-y as it gets while also being avant garde – there is a free jazz influence here not heard within the rock world of the era outside the Magic Band. The only other band that had ever sounded like this were the Velvets, and they were frankly never this aggressive (and, also, had sort of started to play power pop by this point).
It’s too artsy fartsy to be punk. But it’s pretty much impossible to imagine punk and post punk without this record. Nearly as seminal as the Velvets first few albums.
Raw Power may be the easiest Stooges record to love. But this is the braver album.
PS: “TV Eye” is the greatest.
1973: Raw Power (10/10)
Disclaimer: I have only ever heard Iggy’s mix of this; it is the mix I know and the mix I like. I feel like listening to the original Bowie mix would be disorienting but I have never tried.
Though arguably a different band (not just in their name but because James Williamson is now here, co-writing the songs), this is the best Stooges album and the one that most encapsulates the band at their best. Gone are the 10 minute songs and the saxophone – sure there’s a celeste and what sounds like some kind of keyboard on two songs, but it’s still less arty and arguably louder (at least this mix is) than their first two records.
The songs are stronger too, I think, as a body of songs anyway.
Listening to this for the first time in a few years I’m left wondering why this is not quite punk. And I guess it isn’t because it’s too competent and still just a titch too arty. But it’s pretty damn close and it’s easy to understand why punk was the next logical step.
2007: The Weirdness (???)
This is apparently terrible. But I have never listened to it.