The Stooges- Fun House
The lifestyle of a rockstar is not what it is proclaimed to be. Many people view it as being a life of wealth, sex, happiness and pure bliss, as if they were indestructible. This assumption could not have been more wrong. The myth is false, and the truth could not be darker. Three bands the 1960’s understood that. The Velvet Underground, MC5, and in this case, The Stooges. Never before them, had rock n roll been brought up from the underground in such a bombastic, dirty way. Everything censorship stood for in America had been wrung out from the airwaves, and rebellion was sought after. Vulgarity, explicit sexuality, and the dark world of drug addiction were making their marks slowly on the music industry And with the help of The Stooges (as well as Velvet Underground and MC5), with their incendiary frontman, Iggy Pop, the philosophy of what would today be the foundation of punk music.
It may not have been the definition of the genre, but it is safe to say that the genre wouldn’t exist without these three Detroit rock bands. Fueled by anger, and feeding on complacency, The Stooges were the pioneers of sleazy rock. Today’s definition of punk, which has unfortunately been limited to poppy rock bands on radio stations and TV, might not have credited The Stooges with anything relating to punk, but only they can say such ghastly remarks. After listening to The Stooges, I have come to my senses that punk is not limited to today’s narrowly defined “**** authority!”, clichéd classification. The genre is meant for you to find your inner-most voice, deep inside your id, and stand up for what you disagree with. This doesn’t mean to give the finger to police officers, or write ‘Renegade’ on your notebooks, or draw an anarchy logo on your backpack, but simply to just stand up for yourself and your beliefs, regardless of how serious the consequences against you may be. And that, is what punk is truly about. Don’t be mad at me for this, but we all know that punk icons are not the most highly skilled instrumentalists of the age. They were not bad, but their music reflected more upon message, rather than melody. The Stooges, however, are all adept on their instruments, but still maintain the raw, crunchy sound that made them famous in the first place. Iggy Pop’s growling voice, combined with crunchy guitar riffs and funky, yet straightforward rhythms set the stage for The Stooge’s explosive album, “Fun House”. And let me say, the word ‘classic’ is nothing but a mere understatement.
One thing that sets this apart from other punk albums is the long track lengths. The average punk rock song clocks in around the two and a half- three minute mark. Compared to some of the songs on here, which run well over seven minutes, the average punk song appears to be elevator music. The band may be the forerunners of punk, but their sound is shaped heavily by blues rock, and the influence of bands such as The Kinks, Yardbirds, and The Animals shines through. ‘Down on the Street’ is a no frills, blues-doused tune with a gritty edge to the vocal performance. Iggy Pop is truly untouchable, and his trademark snarls and growls were unprecedented. The blues riff that commandeers the song is a perfect support to the snappy voice, and the solo is reminiscent of The Kinks’ gem, ‘You Really Got Me’. The following, ‘Loose’ is much more raw and more punk sounding than its predecessor. With a crispy riff that is not dissimilar to MC5’s ‘Kick Out the Jams’, the song is hectic and has an audible bassline that backs up the guitar line. Meanwhile, ‘TV Eye’ is a Stooges classic with a memorable main riff, and bouncy rhythm. The guitar solo is remarkable, not for ‘shred of the century’, but for its uncanny ability to somewhat support the riff and add a melodic twist on things. Iggy’s fiery vocals, with the infectious chorus of ‘She got a TV Eye on me.’ is simply brilliant. The magic potent to the Stooges’ music lies in their ability to write memorable riffs that actually require some instrumental knowledge to play, unlike some of the later punk bands of the explosion era. ‘Dirt’ is one of the more interesting songs on the album. The seven minute jam is driven by a bluesy, thumping bass riff that makes a very strong presence throughout the entire duration, even with a loud wah-wah guitar solo, as well as powerhouse drumming, and Iggy’s edgy lyrics. The ambient guitar work is a nice touch, and adds a drop of more progressive music to the high-intensity, thrashy music that seems to control a high percentage of the album’s duration. Iggy’s periodical “Do you feel it” dragged on, thoroughly expresses the vulgarity and sexual references through a mere four-word sentence.
‘1970’ is one of the more unique tracks on the album, not for its bouncy, almost poppy main line, but for its use of a tenor saxophone, something most neo-punks might consider unholy. Oddly enough as it may be in the context of early punk music, the tenor sax proves to be delightful to listen to, and adds a very unique spin on the music, even if it does follow a two minute rock guitar solo. The title track, ‘Fun House’, is the longest song on this 8-track masterpiece, and is another song that borrows heavily from blues, but also swing, as the saxophone drives most of the song. The simple, yet heavy chord progression remains nailed to the root, but what surprises me is that the bass does as much, if not more than the guitar in the context of the song. Iggy’s voice is rather upbeat, but still growls with intensity, and the guitar still solos and produces massive waves of feedback and a wall of distortion. Iggy’s high-anxiety shrills make the song more of a movement, rather than a track. Anxious guitar feedback and a roaring drum solo open the finale, ‘LA Blues’. This seems to be quite an intense ambient piece. The synthesizer noises are quite creepy, and the drum solo does not let go of your neck. The saxophone seems to be aimlessly playing random notes, and Iggy Pop still throws in a random bark. The guitar feedback can cause your head to throb in ways you cannot imagine if your volume is up too loud, so may I suggest turning the volume pot down when listening to this song. An intense, ambient, and restless finale to an album that spawned generations of punks.
You may or may not agree with my rating of a perfect score, but it isn’t an agreement that I am looking for. Being unbiased, and somewhat challenged to listen to this music has opened up my mind, and at first, to be quite frank, I was even annoyed. But after a few listens you’ll come to realize what made me reconsider my thoughts in the first place. Not all punk bands really are punks after all.
The Stooges were:
Iggy Pop- Vocals
Ron Asheton- Guitar
Dave Alexander- Bass
Scott Asheton- Drums
Steven Mackay- Tenor Saxophone
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