Rock'n'roll, big and dumb

<strong>The Weirdness</strong>

<em>The Stooges</em> Virgin

The Stooges, like MC5 and the New York Dolls, are a recently re-formed band high on any skinny young rocker's list of influences. They cannot be begrudged a lucrative comeback; when they were making their most incredible music, hardly anyone was buying it.

Steve Albini, producer of Nirvana's In Utero, is one of many notable musicians the Stooges touched with their raw, unhinged trio of late Sixties/early Seventies albums, which laid the groundwork for punk and grunge. He fulfils a lifetime's ambition by working on this, their first studio album in 34 years. As is Albini's style, he basically leaves the band to it - but what once would have sounded shockingly unrestrained now just seems messy.

The wild-eyed persona of the Stooges' frontman, Iggy Pop, today seems more amusing than threatening. He will turn 60 this year, and while we could hardly expect one of rock's biggest lunatics to start singing about fishing and arthritis, it is still unsettling to hear him announcing, "My dick is turning into a tree" on the pounding opener, "Trollin'". Too often, the mental regression he undergoes in order to re-create the Iggy of 1970 leads him to become a cartoon parody of his former self. He tries a little politics on the tense, angry "Idea of Fun", but clunky lines such as "Now is the season for war with no reason" add little of substance to the sum of musical comments on Iraq.

When there is a decent tune involved, as on "Free and Freaky", The Weirdness offers the simple pleasures of big, dumb rock'n'roll. But there is none of the barely controlled menace that made earlier recordings so gripping.

This album has to stand up to a back catalogue that has become legendary. Sadly, and perhaps understandably, it fails.