After two albums, the loudest and most powerful band of the 70s broke up in a tailspin of drug addiction and commercial disaster. Two years later they reformed. Could you ask for a better return? Every sound in ‘Raw Power’ sounds like it’s about to kick its way out of the speakers and headbut you in the teeth. Despite this, this is by no account “just noise”; these are eight carefully crafted, brilliant rock songs that just happen to have the force of a small bomb. It doesn’t just turn speed, aggression and in-your-face sexuality up-to-11, it strains power from seething tension and swaggering confidence as well as jet-propelled force. Frontman Iggy Pop, before he was peddling Swiftcover car insurance, was a hedonistic monster; a gleefully unhinged singer who embodied everything that wasn’t quite safe. His vocal on ‘I Need Somebody’ is one part comic villain, one part madman with a voracious sexual appetite, right until the end where he starts howling “SOMEBODY!!” at the moon. James Williamson is easily one of the most underrated guitarists of all time; while rooted in blues, his guitar always sounds like an angry snapping animal, tied to a chain that could give way at any moment. Despite the “power”, the band balance the roaring rumble of the guitars with the odd high flourish such as the orchestral bells on ‘Penetration’. It was this added creativity, alongside the high-octane propulsion that proved so influential to so many. Without The Stooges (particularly ‘Raw Power’), you can forget Sonic Youth; you can forget The White Stripes; hell, so many would sound totally different without this.
Iggy Pop remixed ‘Raw Power’ for the CD re-release; as a result he just turned all the knobs up until they peaked, making this officially the loudest album of all time. Rather than compromise the sound, this was what ‘Raw Power’ was all about: pushing the envelope. The original mix by David Bowie is more balanced, foregrounding the melody and smartly contrasting softs and louds, but for my money, ‘Raw Power’ is best heard in Iggy’s mix; the mix that sounds like a battle-scarred pitbull. Often called one of the first punk records, it also stacks up as one of the best around.
Listen to this: with thick walls
Key Track: Raw Power