These two reissued albums represent the Stooges at the peak of their supersonic powers. Which essentially means, if you don't like The Stooges (1969) and Fun House (1970), you don't like rock music. Further, you are probably a lousy lay and a Republican.
Led by possibly the most phallic and wiry frontman in the history of frontmen, Iggy Pop (AKA James Osterberg), these Ann-Arbor miscreants created the ultimate fight-and-fuck soundtrack. These tumescent effusions are unparalleled catalysts for reckless hedonism. Ig, Ron Asheton (guitar), Scott Asheton (drums), and Dave Alexander (bass) inspired pure pelvic-grinding raunchiness and politician-punching nihilism. Oh, and punk rock, too. Seminal? Your scene is soaking in it, junior.
You should already know these songs as well as you do your own genitals, seeing as they're basically as crucial as that junk in your crotch (or should be). Produced by the Velvet Underground's John Cale, The Stooges is a fuzzed-to-hell, wah-wah'd-to-heaven seminar in primitive rock-n-roll ballistics—except for "We Will Fall," a somber, satanic faux-Krishna chant of ominous portent. (Swans' Michael Gira surely digs the hell out of this.) Though the follow-up Fun House is 35 years old, it's still darker, more brutal, sexier, wilder, and scarier than 99 percent of all music that's emerged since its birth.
If the MC5 were the fertile 1960s Detroit rock scene's superego with their White Panther rabble-rousing and authority-rattling rhetoric, the Stooges were its flaming id. Iggy and company proved that a violent orgasm can be just as liberating as giving the finger to those in power.
To the original classic LPs, Rhino has added bonus CDs totaling 24 rarities and unreleased tracks and copious, valuable liner notes. These addenda bear no revelations, but they offer Stooges fanatics interesting peeks into the band's creative process and make you realize that the original album-track selections were right on.
But enough chatter. You need these albums like you need to get laid tonight. "Uhhnnggg!" DAVE SEGAL
Drawing Restraint 9
(One Little Indian)
Björk's latest release is a sometimes childlike, more often abstrusely avant-garde, soundtrack to the new Matthew Barney film. It features Barney and Björk turning into whales (among other objects) and has already drawn its fair share of detractors among Björk fans, one of whom describes a "10-minute marathon of what sounds like an old man trying to pass a painful bowel movement" at amazon.co.uk.
That's a bit too harsh. This is a soundtrack. One expects soundtracks to be abstract, nonverbal—particularly a soundtrack created by a woman who takes pride in constantly challenging the perception of her work. Björk's last album was a collection of tape-looped vocals. Some of Drawing Restraint's music is quite beautiful, haunting: the children's choir at the end of "Gratitude" (wherein Will Oldham sounds uncannily like Nina Simone); the album's elegiac centerpiece "Storm" with its impassioned Björk vocal; the minimal and playful instrumental "Ambergis March," with its crotales and glockenspiel.
And although the piercing sound of the cho solo (kind of a cross between an organ and a harmonica) on "Antarctic Return," and the aforementioned grunting man ("Holographic Entrypoint") may not be to everyone's taste, there's certainly enough here to beguile and excite. This album is a little hit and miss—rather like the film, one suspects—but so is the nature of experimental performance. EVERETT TRUE
The Warlocks' earlier works—two heavy, narcotic-fueled drone-rock albums that explored the dark side of the '60s—could rightly be filed under "sickedelia." With two drummers, three guitars, and multiple songs with the word "dope" in their title, these Los Angeleans—who adopted the discarded monikers of both the Velvet Underground and the Grateful Dead—were capable of channeling a flower-child nightmare like no other. However, on Surgery, their latest and most accomplished album to date, Bobby Hecksher and company have fixed their hazy vision on Phil Spector, yielding a final product rooted in the golden age of American pop, while piling on layer upon layer of fuzzed-out guitar and organ to produce songs that simultaneously conjure innocence and decadence. This juxtaposition is most expertly realized on "Angels in Heaven, Angels in Hell," "It's Just Like Surgery," "Evil Eyes Again," and "The Tangent." On the latter, Hecksher confesses with bittersweet pride, "I got so sick/The nurses they've all quit!" Self-destruction, in itself, is no joking matter, but when an artist can harness his descent into oblivion, write the best album of his career, and live to tell the tale, one is reminded of the redemptive and transformational powers of music. KIP BERMAN
The beauty of an EP, particularly when it's a band's first release, is that there isn't a whole lot of room for screwing around. With only six songs to get their point across, Stabmasterarson demonstrate exactly why they are one of Seattle's most promising up and comers. The obvious comparisons to Joy Division and Bauhaus make this band sound far gloomier than they actually are. Scratch a little deeper and you'll find a definite '70s pop punk influence (Wire, Gang of Four, and the Clash are all in there somewhere), particularly on tracks such as "The Fall of Saint Peter."
Stabmasterarson avoid the clutter of too much input by paring things down to three band members (Kerry Zettel on vocals/bass, Shawn Kock on guitar/keyboards, and Robin Dupuy bashing out the drums). The simplicity stands out best on "The Legacy" one of the EP's standout tracks and a highlight of their live performance.
The last song on this self-titled release is perhaps the messiest and most uneven of the lot. "The Laughs Just Never Keep Coming" will leave you curiously engaged, sort of like an attractive but disheveled drunk reeling around a house party. It only seems appropriate that the song's unique sound comes, in part, from an amp made out of an old crate head and stereo speaker that Zettel found sitting by a dumpster. KERRI HARROP
Stabmasterarson perform Sat Aug 27, on the I Sunk Your Battleship Cruise (see page TK for details).
Generally speaking, the indie-rock scene needs another quirky singer-songwriter about as much as it needs another band with "wolf" or "snake" in its name—but this multi-talented, Calgary-based musician is a highly notable exception to that cynical observation. Possessing a disarming, nearly-seven-feet-tall frame and a wholly unique style, Chad VanGaalen is an extraordinarily gifted composer who knows how to layer effects, tweak his time signatures, and skew his subject matter without letting things get too messy or weighed down. His voice is an intriguing hybrid of Neil Young's more delicate quivers and Isaac Brock's more restrained, meditative drawls. The tone and cadence of those vocals serve him quite well from a textural standpoint; simple lyrics like "tell me about your mom and how she cuts her hair" (on "After the Afterlife") become excruciatingly poignant when delivered in his distinctive tone. Though VanGaalen could benefit from more prudent editing (10 tracks instead of 16 would have made a stronger impression), the breadth and complexities of his arrangements are impressive. Structurally, the foundations initially sound as simple as any Lou Barlow strum-n-yarn, but when VanGaalen begins gingerly lacing them with fluttery, arrhythmic electronic beats, haunting notes from his homemade instruments (including hand-whittled saxophones and violins), the songs take on folky-ethereal qualities that will make fans of Do Make Say Think and Godspeed You! Black Emperor swoon. HANNAH LEVIN
MINUS THE BEAR
Menos el Oso
Minus the Bear's second full-length, Menos el Oso, is the year's anti-standard indie rock record, flaunting a nostalgic aura through a journey of memories past. A steady rhythm section flows beneath Jake Snider's sturdy vocals while Dave Knudson's staccato guitar compositions lightly dance on the surface, consistently adding both a vibrant beauty and an anxious energy to the music. Matt Bayles's electronic flourishes have never sounded more necessary, filling those empty corners with unusual melodies.
The music's strong dynamics only enhance Snider's lyrics, which play out like movies as he poetically describes specific moments down to the time and place. He recalls an innocent snow day on "Hooray" ("It's cold and snow's actually on the ground/of this no-snow town/and instead of cars/the street's trafficking in sleds./Men become boys again"), and visits a night of drinking and flirting in "The Fix" ("The distance between our bodies/is a problem that we can fix./They moved slow through the current and found/their bodies touching"). Whether or not these scenarios are fictional isn't important, as Snider leaves them just vague enough to become a part of anyone's history. Which works, as Minus the Bear's music is made to become the soundtrack to Seattle life. MEGAN SELING
DVD VHS Pay-Per-View Beta-Max