Ron Asheton & Arcade Fire Review

It has been over 3 decades since Iggy Pop and The Stooges last unleashed their "Raw Power." Now the protopunk rockers are back with a brand new album. Jim and Greg will talk about the band's history with The Stooges' co-founder, Ron Asheton, and review their latest effort. Then they'll discuss the much-anticipated sophomore release from Canadian indie rockers The Arcade Fire.

Ron Asheton
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Neon Bible The Arcade Fire

Neon Bible

The Arcade Fire returns this week with Neon Bible, one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year so far. The Montreal band is one of indie rock's biggest success stories in recent years, having sold over half a million copies of their debut album, Funeral. In fact, they're the number one selling artists in the history of North Carolina indie label, Merge Records. The band is known for their epic sound, amazing live performances, and dramatic, dark themes. Funeral's songs were written about the deaths of nine friends and family members. So, it's hard to imagine they could get any darker with this release. But, with Neon Bible, frontman Win Butler expanded his themes to cover religion, war, and the state of his native country. For Jim, this took some getting used to, but after a few listens he grew to really enjoy it -- well, half of it. He counts six rhythmic tracks worth listening to, but names five songs that just sink the whole album. Therefore he gives it a Burn It. Greg agrees that this record does not do the band justice. He doesn't think the songwriting is strong enough, but highly recommends listeners see the Arcade Fire live. He also gives Neon Bible a Burn It.

Ron Asheton of The Stooges

A couple of weeks ago Jim and Greg talked about the punk pioneers The Ramones. This week it's time to look at the other pillar of punk: The Stooges. In the late ā€˜60s and early ā€˜70s the band released three major albums, and then disintegrated into drugs and power struggles. Now, almost 35 years later, three of the four original members reunited to record a new album, The Weirdness. Jim and Greg invite guitarist Ron Asheton to talk about the band's history and how they came back together.

Lead singer Iggy Pop (James Osterberg), guitarist Ron Asheton, drummer Scott Asheton and bassist Dave Alexander formed The Stooges in Ann Arbor, MI in 1967. They were signed to Elektra Records a year later after opening for "big brother band" the MC5. There they had their first self-titled album produced by John Cale of The Velvet Underground. Jim and Greg talk to Ron Asheton about the band's first time in the studio (and their first in-studio strike), and learn about how they developed their signature, primitive sound. They point to the propulsive Bo Diddley-inspired rhythms of songs like "1969."

The Stooges went on to record Fun House, which reflected their love of James Brown and John Coltrane, and then things started to fall apart. Iggy went on to form a relationship with David Bowie (and with heroin), and got the band signed to Columbia Records. Ron Asheton was bounced down to bassist, however. He explains that their subsequent release, Raw Power, is a good album, but not indicative of their true sound.

The Weirdness The Stooges

The Weirdness

Despite any personal issues that band members might have had, Ron Ashteon explains that he was excited at Iggy's invite to start things up again so many years later. They enlisted the help of Chicago-based recordist Steve Albini and made The Weirdness. Greg states right away that this album isn't in the same category as the band's first three. He thinks it's a solid effort, however. Greg was impressed by the rhythm section of Scott Asheton and Mike Watt of The Minutemen, but missed the strong songwriting and melodies of songs like "I Wanna Be Your Dog." He counts Iggy Pop as the wild card, and doesn't think he's up to par. He gives The Weirdness a Burn It. Jim's reaction to the album was just a bit more negative. He calls it a "disaster" and an "embarrassment," and doubts Greg will ever listen to it again. He thinks Ron Asheton is doing as fine a job as ever, but was offended by the stupidity of Iggy Pop's lyrics, which push racial and sexual hot buttons. Jim wants to remind Iggy that as a man about to turn 60, he can no longer sing about living fast and dying young. Jim gives The Stooges' reunion effort a Trash It.

City Beach Jill Cunniff

Jill Cuniff

The next review is of City Beach, the solo album from former Luscious Jackson front woman Jill Cunniff. Jim has always thought that Luscious Jackson was an underrated group, so he's glad to have Cunniff back, as well as a new greatest hits album. City Beach, produced by Daniel Lanois, met his expectations. He thinks it's a sultry record, perfect for a summer day in New York City, and gives it a Buy It. Greg was totally disappointed in Cunniff. He was also a Luscious Jackson fan, but finds this album sleepy, and not at all ambitious or creative. He gives City Beach a Trash It.

Greg

Now it's time for Greg to add a track to the Desert Island Jukebox. Inspired by last week's Oscar Awards, he chooses a song by film score composer Ennio Morricone. As a music critic, he's always baffled by the songs that are honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. But, he was happy to see that the broadcast featured a tribute to Morricone. The composer is best known for providing scores for "spaghetti westerns." While he was based in Rome, with no knowledge of the Old West, Morricone's music was still evocative of that time and place. Greg credits the fact that many of these films were similar to Italian operas -- biblical stories with larger-than-life characters. Morricone's music is definitely theatrical, and more importantly, cinematic. Indeed if you listen to the theme to the classic The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, you can picture the landscape and understand the story without even opening your eyes.

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