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Iggy Pop Skull Ring

By Frank Meyer, Contributing Editor
Thursday, December 18, 2003 @ 1:27 PM


(Virgin)

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The godfather of punk returns with his latest platter of sweat-soaked rock ‘n’ roll and rounds up several high profile guests for the event. Most notably, Mr. Pop unearths original bandmates Ron and Scott Asheton and reforms the Stooges for four songs, and sounds as reenergized as ever. Just as successful (surprisingly) are collaborations with Sum 41 and Green Day. Less successful are collabos with NY electronica-rap rocker Peaches and his own touring backup band, The Trolls.

The album opens with the first new Stooges song in over 30 years, “Little Electric Chair” and it’s a pretty heart-stopping moment. When Ron’s buzzsaw Strat riff tears in, Iggy yelps “Whooooo” and the band kicks into Funhouse-style groove, complete with handclaps and chugging A-chords, it’s like it’s 1969 all over again. They sound as fresh and dangerous as they did when they invented punk and heavy metal in the first place (if you doubt that statement, go back and listen to their three albums and check the dates and tell me that along with Hendrix, The Who, Zeppelin, they didn’t father the whole damn movement). On the sleazy “Repo Man”-esque title-track, the Stooges sound as menacing as ever, grinding out a “Peter Gunn”-inspired riff as Iggy sings of decadence and despair. However, on the similarly sounding “Loser” and “Dead Rock Star” they sound slightly less enthused, so both tunes comes off more like Iggy throwaway than new Stooges cuts.

Green Day step up to the plate for “Private Hell” and “Supermarket” and are solid as a rock. Though “Private Hell” spanks of Iggy’s own “The Passenger,” it’s one of the strongest songs here and the band is tight as a gnat’s ass. Though a bit generic sounding, “Supermarket” is a hard as nails punk rant and serves it’s purpose of reminding us that Iggy’s power is still raw.

Sum 41 make Iggy’s new single, “Little Know It All,” one of his best in years, adding hooks and spirit to his update on the “world’s forgotten boy” theme (now the boy is in love with a snotty girl, ya see). It’s his best shot at a hit in years. Who woulda thunk that combination would work?

Far less triumphant of a venture is his union with Peaches on the god-awful “Rock Show” and the so-so “Whatever.” Surprisingly, Iggy’s usually quite capable backing band, The Trolls, turn in some of the weakest songs here. While “Perverts In The Sun” is a good one, “Superbabe” is a tired subject over a used punk riff and “Inferiority Complex” is just kinda lumbering. “Blood On Your Cool” is more like it, with its dark passages, metallic guitars and lyrics of desperate fun. Amazingly, the best of The Trolls tunes comes in the form of the hidden bonus track, “Nervous Exhaustion.” Go figure.

All in all, Skull Ring is a hit and miss affair and screams of his label convincing him this was the only way to get a hit (or keep his deal), yet when it rocks -- it rocks hard enough to make you forget about the filler. For Stooges fans, this album is a must and two of the new songs do not disappoint. For Iggy, fans they’ll find this album is way better than his last two (Beat ‘Em Up and Avenue A) though not as strong or focused as the previous three (Naughty Little Doggie, American Caesar and Brick By Brick), but still better than most guys his age. Shit, better than most guys half his age. If you think about it, the only guys from the ‘60s who are still making vital music are Iggy, Dylan and Neil Young. And Iggy rocks a lot harder than those other two dudes, that’s for fucking sure….

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