We’d never thought we’d say it, but these days Iggy Pop sounds better when he’s dignified and not defiant. Back with The Stooges following 2007's The Weirdness but now with founding member James Williamson on board for the first time since 1973’s Raw Power, Ready to Die can be a polarising affair. Half blitzkrieg of scorched earth abandon and half the sound of meditative old punks congressing to pick over the damage done.
Williamson is in savage form lashing out line after line of excoriating guitar on opener Burn and controlling a ferocious tangle of serrated chords on the title track. Iggy’s continued adult-lescence is given free-reign on DD’s, one of several songs extolling the virtues of the glandula mammaria and let's face it, there aren't many tunes about boobs that namecheck Aristotle. So Iggy is still down there on the floor, among his books of lore.
It's funny for the sheer manufactured outrageousness of it all but the likes of Sex and Money, propelled by dirty brass and animalistic yelps, is so much better as Iggy slams the triumph of celebrity culture, while Gun notes that the US is in a worse state than when Iggy and The Stooges first captured the atmosphere of dread on their first albums back in the seventies.
Both Pop and band are actually better when they step back and make clear-eyed observations. Unfriendly World is a sage and sad look over the shoulder and Beat That Guy has the late-period gravitas of Lou Reed’s towering New York album from 1989. Most moving of all is The Departed, a heartfelt homage to late Stooge Ron Asheton.
It's good but less mammaries and more maturity and Ready to Die would have been very good indeed.