THE STOOGES No Fun (Elektra)

This is part of a welcome series of audiophile vinyl reissues from Warner Bros., and, to quote the cover blurb that always seems to accompany such items, it's a "180g high quality vinyl pressing mastered from the best available source". Note the absence of claims involving original analogue masters, and consider that if you're using anything else the realities represented by the phrase 'best available source' become somewhat subjective.

Anyway, irrespective of where it came from "No Fun" is a fine-sounding compilation of the highlights from the first two Stooges albums which, by including "1969", "No Fun", "Real Cool Time" and "I Wanna Be Your Dog" conveniently absolves the purchaser from any requirement to ever buy their eponymous debut, the remainder of which was allegedly cobbled together the night before the John Cale-produced recording session. This album basically consists of one proto-punk classic after another - aside from the above mentioned you'll also find such essential anti-social listening experiences as "T.V. Eye", "Loose" and "1970". Unfortunately it doesn't quite remove the need to hunt down their second and best album "Fun House" as well - if its title track and the avant-jazz howl of "L.A. Blues" could've been substituted for the seven minutes of "Dirt" that appear here it might well have done - but as a one-stop introductory Stooges package "No Fun" gets it almost totally spot on.

THE STOOGES The Stooges (Elektra)

THE STOOGES Funhouse (Elektra)

If you're still labouring under the misapprehension that 1976 (or even 1991) was the year punk broke, lend an ear to the 1969 debut album from an unkempt quartet led by a man then known only by the mysterious pseudonym Iggy Stooge. Released by the forward thinking Elektra label within months of the similarly prophetic MC5's "Kick Out The Jams", and produced by a Dracula-cape wearing, tangerine-munching John Cale for maximum underground cred, "The Stooges" oozes punk out of every pore.

There are, essentially, only three songs here, or at least only three songs that you'd want to hear more than once. The remainder of the album is filler, being artless rant-pop lent just about enough danger by Iggy's leering public enemy vocals or dreary pseudo-mystical drone rock (the ten minutes of "We Will Fall", which features Mr Cale sawing away at his viola with little enthusiasm). But those three songs are "1969", "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and "No Fun", which both formed the core of just about every punk band's early repertoire when London belatedly and painfully caught up with Detroit and spelt out the slacker generation's anti-manifesto at least two decades too soon. That's what makes "The Stooges" essential, at least until the 'impolite' unedited versions of these songs that reputedly linger in the Elektra vaults surface.

A year later, The Stooges were back in the studio with producer Don Gallucci (the pianist on The Kingsmen's seminal recording of "Louie Louie") and sometime fifth member, saxophonist Steven Mackay, forging what Iggy describes as "Osterberg's Fifth Symphony". And maybe it is, the exposition of his art in its purest, uncompromised form. Although nominally divided into seven tracks, it's easier to digest the album as a single statement, since most of the songs are either variations of each other or previous Stooges output.

Far from being a disadvantage, this makes "Funhouse" arguably Iggy's most cohesive long player. "T.V. Eye" and "Fun House" are astonishing, stomping beasts of songs, the latter being particularly notable for Mr Pop's repeated exhortations to the rest of the band to "Let me in" and "Bring it down" like some sickening inversion of James Brown, and possibly the greatest musical fistfight outside of The Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray". The album ends on an even more unhinged note, with the five minutes of feedback, distortion, primal howling and distressed, wailing saxophone that is "L.A. Blues". Think Captain Beefheart covering "Helter Skelter" and you'll still be nowhere near the kind of atonal cacophony cooked up here (and that's meant as a compliment). If "The Stooges" was the original punk template, "Funhouse" pushed it to infinity and beyond, and for the past thirty years Iggy Pop has been essentially tilling the same territory, albeit with gradually escalating production values. Perhaps that's the reason that these original Stooges albums still sound so fresh and raw today.

Iggy Pop