Tag Archive: June 2010

June was a month of extremes for my listening and buying habits.

It began with the purchase of two ambient music albums, the first was this year’s ‘Music for Real Airports’ by The Black Dog and the second was my favourite Brian Eno ambient record ‘Ambient 4: On Land’ from 1982. The connection between the two being that The Black Dog album is their own re-imagining of Eno’s critically acclaimed album ‘Ambient 1: Music for Airports’, which popularised the concept of ambient music. I won’t go into any more detail about the Eno and The Black Dog albums as I will explore ambient music more fully in August.

In the second half of June the swing-o-meter swerved into a noisier place. Again it was something old and something new that caught my attention. The former being Liars’ ‘Drum’s Not Dead’ from 2006, which the more I hear the more I understand why it gained such critical praise and is viewed as an important album for American alternative rock. Liars certainly know when to hit hard and when to allow the audience a breather, something I think I had always missed before. A tribal and troubling atmosphere informs the record and binds together an eclectic collection of songs. The latter was ‘Treats’, the debut album by Sleigh Bells that demands to be played loud. What surprised me most about ‘Treats’ was the variety of styles covered within what seems a limiting set-up and aesthetic the duo have chosen. Hats off to them for producing such an impressive work, and possibly the debut of the year, that lives up to the hype and is a breath of fresh air .

The final week brought another dramatic swing with the previewing of Big Boi’s (OutKast) new solo album, ‘Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty’ which is out today. His buoyant sound makes what is arguably the best commercial hip-hop album that been released for a year or two and I believe that it should have followed ‘Speakerboxx/The Love Below’ or could even have been the ‘Speakerboxx’ disc. I had also felt that Big Boi was the less talented OutKast member but he’s proving to be Andre 3000’s equal. The spotlight is on Andre 3000 as we wait for his solo album and the next OutKast album and on this evidence I can’t wait!!

Spotify playlist:

June Playlist

June Playlist

Recommended Releases – July:

Big Boi – ‘Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty’ (Mercury) 5th July

Health – ‘Disco 2’ (City Slang) 5th July

Autechre – ‘Move of Ten’ (Warp) 12th July

M.I.A. – ‘MAYA’ (XL) 12th July

Janelle Monáe – ‘The Archandroid’ (Baby Boy/Atlantic) 12th July

School of Seven Bells – ‘Disconnected from Desire’ (Full Time Hobby) 12th July

Tobacco – ‘Maniac Meat’ (Anti-) 12th July *

Walter Gibbons – ‘Jungle Music’ (Strut) 19th July

Propaganda – ‘A Secret Wish (25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)’ (Salvo) 19th July

Charanjit Singh – ‘Synthesizing: Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat’ (Bombay Connection) 19th July

* Put back two weeks from 26th June

Classics Critiqued

This is a new monthly feature where classic and cult albums are revisited and reassessed for the modern listener. The only rule is that it must be a critically acclaimed or cult record released before 2000.

The Stooges – ‘Funhouse’ (Elektra, 1970)

Earlier this month Iggy and The Stooges ‘Raw Power’ was reissued in Legacy and Deluxe Editions to largely unanimous acclaim and like all Stooges albums it has been critically reappraised and influential on subsequent generations. I have never heard ‘Raw Power’ properly, but it’s a record whose influence on punk and heavy metal is clear, so I decided to cover The Stooges second album ‘Funhouse’ recorded by the original line-up of Iggy Pop (vocals), Ron Asheton (guitar), Dave Alexander (bass) and Scott Asheton (drums).

Between their self titled debut album and ‘Funhouse’ The Stooges toured nonstop becoming simultaneously a tighter and looser outfit and writing all the material that ended up on ‘Funhouse’. When they entered Elecktra Sound Recorder Studio in L.A. on May 10th with producer Don Galucci (formerly organ player with The Kingsmen) they recorded one song a day in the order they were to appear on the album with few or no overdubs. This is a factor that marks ‘Funhouse’ out from their other releases; this is their live shows on disk but with the benefit of studio recording techniques. It is the band at their most in-your-face.

From the outset Scott Asheton and Dave Alexander lock into a heavy groove, allowing Ron Asheton to smother the songs in fluid lava fuzz wah guitar and Iggy to have free reign that finds him veering from anguish to anger and regularly unleashing primal screams. The Stooges were always wild and bearly controlled but few bands could and have matched ‘Funhouse’s malevolence without descending into tunelessness.

The Stooges were joined by fifth member Steve Mackay who lent fiery tenor sax lines to the second half of record. Mackay not only added texture to mix but pushed the sound further out; making songs such as ‘Dirt’ and ‘Funhouse’ feel as if on edge of collapse before the band pulls it back from the brink just in time.

When Ron Asheton passed away on 6th January 2009 he left behind a great legacy in ‘Funhouse’ and the other Stooges records he’d played on. It was a legacy that had been largely ignored and not acknowledged before his untimely death. His guitar slithers across the whole of ‘Funhouse’ adding to the groove and swagger and complimenting Iggy’s James Brown style grunting and sexual groaning. Asheton is at his most free and the album is the greatest testament to his playing ability. After ‘Funhouse’ Asheton switched to bass guitar with the departure of Dave Alexander and arrival of Texan guitarist James Williamson, which is a shame as Asheton seemed to truly be tapping into his full potential.

‘Funhouse’s influence is harder to detect than that of their other albums but it’s felt in subtler way and inspires bands that are under the radar and it has been the more interesting rock acts who’ve heaped praise upon this neglected album. The likes of J.Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore have confessed to spending many an hour trying to decode what can seem to be simplistic sonic formula yet the devil is the detail and delivery. At first Iggy’s lyrics can seem innocuous and on the surface Ron Asheton’s guitar riffs are no different to any other garage rock guitarists but the demented screaming vocals, the implied menace and the controlled drone underpinning everything Asheton touches means The Stooges can never be classified in the same way as their contemporaries. Recently their influence can be heard with acts such as Add N to (X) and Acoustic Ladyland and with a hint in Sleigh Bells but the influence manifests differently. Add N to (X) subtly subsume the aesthetics of ‘Funhouse’ into an electronic sound, Acoustic Ladyland take their cues from Steve Mackay’s input and create a brilliant jazz-punk fusion on albums ‘Last Chance Disco’ (2005) and ‘Living with A Tiger’ (2009) and Sleigh Bells draw on the aesthetic and in-your-face sonics.

‘Funhouse’ went in at  No.16 in Mojo’s 100 Greatest Albums of All Time but a better recommendation is a personal one from Henry Rollins who wrote in his 1994 book Get In The Van: On The Road With Black Flag: “Everybody should own a copy of that album.”

Spotify Playlist:

The Stooges – Funhouse [Deluxe Edition]

The Stooges – Funhouse [Deluxe Edition]

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