The Stooges

"The Weirdness" (Virgin) - 2.5 stars

The Stooges’ first release in 30-odd years, “The Weirdness,” lives up to its name—it’s a little weird.

Once known as the forerunners of punk, the band seems—on first listen—to have absorbed the musical styles of just about every trend-setting artist of the last two decades.

Filled with fast beats and poppy guitar melodies, “The Weirdness,” while maintaining the key elements of the band’s sound, has a distinctly modern feel to it. This mixture has its upsides and its downsides.

The Stooges’ infamously primal, sexually explicit lyrics are still there, as is front man Iggy Pop’s distinct “singing” style (read: occasionally on pitch, sometimes screaming). But the overall sound doesn’t feel as unique as it must have in the band’s heyday in the 1970s.

The album does share some elements with 1973’s seminal “Raw Power.” There’s the tendency of tracks to end long after they should, and for songs such as “She Took My Money” to feature randomly-inserted gibberish and yelling—recall old-school classic “Penetration.”

Both albums feature a variety of sounds, but while the first defined a genre, the second seems only to retread musical styles that arose since the band’s early years.

“The Weirdness” melds alternative rock and punk rock while flirting with the musical styles of Bob Dylan, U2, and Dave Matthews to create a vibrant sound palette. Despite the musical diversity found in some of its tracks, the album does manage to be cohesive and even pleasant at times.

To the band’s credit, the drawn out, ear-splitting whine of a guitar at the end of many tracks pieces the album together; the choice is a little weird, but I suppose that’s the point.

Featuring a slower, catchy guitar melody and a singing style that may be Iggy’s nod to 1950s crooners, the title track proves enjoyable. Well-placed saxophones in “Passing Cloud” liven up an otherwise monotonous stretch of the album. “Mexican Guy,” despite its off-color racial humor, does have a infectious beat.

Lyrically speaking, the album still exhibits the nihilism and quasi-political fury characteristic of “Raw Power” and punk rock in general, while managing to be modern at the same time.

“Free & Freaky,” for example, contains a statement about the war in Iraq: “My sister went to war / Tied a guy up on a leash / I think about it sometimes / When I’m sitting on the beach.” “My Idea of Fun” points out, “Now is the season / For war with no reason.”

However, one has to wonder what Iggy was thinking when he combined the words “Madonna,” “Intifada,” “Nirvana,” and “Dalai Lama” in the same verse of “Free & Freaky.”

Being part of the counterculture seems to justify the band’s each and every musical choice: while certain tracks contain attempts at thoughtful lyrics, such as “You can beat the system but you can’t beat the biz” (“She Took My Money”) and “This is the last chorus / I don’t want to bore us” (“Greedy Awful People”), others can be just plain silly. Speaketh Iggy the sage on “I’m Fried”: “Deep fried / Re-fried / Stir-fried / I’m fried.”

One wishes the band would have written better music and lyrics, but they were probably too “Fried.”