My favorite musical debate in the history of time is the topic: Who started punk rock? It’s a pretty standard argument to have with anybody who ever at one point had either a nose piercing or a Mohawk (I only had one of these). The common debate is between the Sex Pistols and the Ramones (see SLC Punk!), but anybody with punk expertise knows that it goes back further than that. People (for some reason) forget about bands like the MC5, the New York Dolls, and the Velvet Underground when discussing this. But none of those bands (with the exception of the MC5) sounded like what we classify as punk. The Velvet Underground were avant-garde from Andy Warhol’s subterranean lair, the New York Dolls were all about the glam, and MC5 were just kicking out the jams. It’s when Iggy Pop and his gang, the Stooges, released their album Raw Power that punk started sounding like punk. And that record sounds just as fresh and furious today as it did almost 40 years ago.
The updated “Search and Destroy” gets me just as amped as it did in seventh grade when I saw Anthony Van Engelen skating to it in the Alien Workshop video. The guitar sounds gritty as hell, and Iggy’s vocals contain a sense of youth that you couldn’t pick up in the initial release. Each note that James Williamson plays is accented to the point where it’s shrieking in your ears. As the song closes out, while Iggy chants about being the “forgotten boy,” you can feel every blood vessel within your brain bursting. “Gimme Danger” makes you more paranoid than ever, as every note rings out into the night, and the wood block sound has been toned down a bit more than the original. This is the danger that Iggy was trying to warn us about years ago.
“Your Pretty Face is Going Straight to Hell” sounds like the place your pretty face is going. The drums sound like pure chaos, while Iggy screams louder than ever over one of album’s most intense songs. The powerful crunch on “Raw Power”, the epic title track, makes you want to travel back to the early ’70s and show the punks back then what modern slam dancing is all about. It sounds like it’s ready for a whole new generation of punks to rip it in the pit. On “Shake Appeal”, somebody has turned up the bass a bit. Each note thumps with fury, and the drums pick up more and more in a sense that was unknown to my ears before the remastered tapes. “Death Trip” is still as shrill of a closer ever, with its sound that makes you think the end is near. As the track closes out with Williamson’s guitar solo over the rest of the band pounding and screaming their hearts out, you can see why this record is the punk rock Bible.
If the remastered Raw Power isn’t enough for you, maybe the second disc will knock your socks off. The first nine tracks are Raw Power tunes performed in its rawest and most sincere form: live. “Raw Power” rages on for about nine minutes, an epic shredder of a jam that would make Phish weak in the knees. I feel like the piano is much more apparent in these recordings, but it shows the live side of the young Stooges that modern kids won’t get to ever experience. “Gimme Danger” sounds darker than ever, as it reminds me more of a Doors jam rather than the dude who used to cut his chest up on stage while screaming obscenities (although that’s not too far off from what Jim Morrison would do). At the start of “Search and Destroy”, Iggy asks them to turn the lights out while the band blasts through their most classic song (other than “I Wanna Be Your Dog”). It’s a jam like this that makes you realize how ahead of their time the Stooges were, and why this record deserves a quality reissue.
Raw Power is by far the most important punk record ever. That is, if I had to pick one in that classic who started punk argument. If songs like “Raw Power”, “Search and Destroy”, and “Death Trip” did not exist, I would probably not be the asshole I am today. This record showed me what true grit and punk rock were all about, and it was released in a time where nobody had any idea what that even was. It will only become more important and more badass as time goes on, and this remastered edition of the album is a perfect example of why it will remain that way. You know when something sounds this fresh 30 years after its’ initial release, it has to be what some might call a classic.