Thursday, November 3, 2016

By Sean Wu

On Friday, November 4th, FilmScene will be showing the new documentary from Jim Jarmusch, Gimme Danger, explores the influential proto-punk act famously led by Iggy Pop, the Stooges. In celebration of the upcoming movie and the Stooges, the Bijou Blog will be posting reviews of the Stooges first three albums. First up, 1969’s self-titled debut.

Lyrically, The Stooges is very much of its time. That’s not to say the Stooges’ lyrics are bad, but at least for this record, there is a feeling of insignificance associated with its words. Rumor has it even that half of the album’s lyrics were written the night before the first recording session. There’s credibility to the rumor, because The Stooges has an overwhelming sense of urgency and immediacy for quite a bit of the thirty-four minute duration.

The most political song is the first, “1969”, which introduces the album by telling the listener that the year of 1969 would be a year of sour punk attitude. There’s a verve to the whole song that feels significant. It’s easy to hear how songs like this could influence some greats working today, like Julian Casablancas or Jack White. “I Wanna Be Your Dog” is arguably the most iconic song of the record, and for good reason. If there is a single song that could represent the sound of the whole record, “I Wanna Be Your Dog” is it. The repetitive chords are reminiscent of the Velvet Underground’s best song, “I’m Waiting for the Man”. John Cale of the Velvet Underground produced this entire record, so the similarities between “Dog” and “Man” should be expected.

The record comes to a grinding halt with the third song, “We Will Fall”, which is a dreadful ten-minute droll that seems to exist only as padding to the already-brief record. “We Will Fall” is so drab and uninspired – at least the Beatles’ “Revolution 9” was an interesting experiment. At least on their first album, the Stooges are not suited to making slow songs. “Ann”, another slow song in the tracklist, is a dud too because it lacks the raw power that makes the Stooges worth listening to.

“No Fun”, “Real Cool Time”, and “Not Right” are all fine, exciting songs, but too brief to be substantial. Besides “We Will Fall”, the record does not overstay its welcome. Instead of feeling immediate and raw, The Stooges sometimes feels impatient and undercooked, as if it is ready to end. At its best, though, The Stooges represents proto-punk at its finest. Overall, it is a good album. “Little Doll” closes the album – a fine conclusion, leaving the listener with a glimmer of hope that the next record from the Stooges has more energy and immediacy, and less songs like “We Will Fall” or “Ann”.

Sean Wu is both a movie and music lover. He is currently a part of Bijou Horizons. More of his writing can be read here.