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A mammoth 4-CD set, Roadkill Rising chronicles Iggy Pop’s notorious live shows from his post-Stooges days. These four discs are a lot to take in, each representing a decade apiece. It’s an overwhelming amount of material designed for die-hard fans and completists. There are plenty of nuggets to be found in this collection, amid many less noteworthy performances. Iggy’s been bootlegged countless times, but the compilers at Shout! Factory make an admirable effort to sort out the ludicrous amount of material. Maybe they put too much here, but taking in Iggy’s live shows a decade at a time with each disc makes it a bit easier. It’s a four course meal with great big portions of loud music—though there are a few surprising moments of tenderness along the way.
Getting past the gaudy cover, let’s begin with the disc of music from the 70s. After a brief introduction, it kicks right out the gates with a hot version of “Raw Power.” His band throughout the disc appears to be the same group he and David Bowie utilized during the recording of Lust for Life, as evidenced by the stratocaster sounds and bouncing bass lines. A problem with the compilation though is the complete lack of credited bands—is that Carlos Alomar on guitar? and Tony and Hunt Sales as the rhythm section? Probably, but the insert booklet sure can’t tell you. Nevertheless there are a few goodies on the disc, particularly the hilarious rendition of Them’s “Gloria,” along with “Knocking ‘Em Down in the City.” Unfortunately, the sound quality varies show to show, as well as disc to disc, but if your ears can get by some of the poorer recordings there are some fun performances.
The great thing about the first disc of late seventies performances is that it shows how excited Iggy was to be alive and performing. He survived the decade’s excesses, and his album Lust for Life lived up to its title—Iggy lived up to its title. Though most of the performances are unsurprisingly revved up, Iggy’s stage persona tends to make up for the lack of variety on the disc. Many listeners might find this the most worthy disc seeing as it’s classic Iggy in his prime. What may be worth more in the end however, is disc 2.
While the 1980s saw Iggy put out some rather uninspired studio albums, the second disc of Roadkill Rising gives us a listen to his exciting live shows of the decade. Even if the compilers focus on tunes from The Idiot (1976) and classics from the Stooges, his backing bands perform with a post-punk/new wave attitude. Of course, their attitude fits the times, but it also displays Iggy’s worth beyond punk rock. The robotic moods of The Idiot helped give life to the likes of Joy Division and more, and its sounds suited the 80s better than the 70s. These recordings add some vitality to his legacy, even if they were culled from shows that may not have been as engaging on a whole as the highlights.
What’s most interesting on the second disc is the recording of “One for My Baby (Quarter to Three).” It’s more than ten minutes, if only for several false starts due to a rowdy audience. Iggy even starts to get pissed off as he’s unable to sing his song. The thing is, he sounds like he means it when he says he wants to sing the song. So despite critics panning the bulk of his 80s output, apparently Iggy did believe in what he was doing. The song’s low key croon isn’t at all bad, and Iggy pulls it off convincingly. It’s refreshing (and perhaps revitalizing) to hear his pleading with the audience though, as it does add levity to his patchy studio work through that strange decade.
Disc 3’s tales from the 90s isn’t quite as impressive as the other discs in the set. The strongest performance on the disc is the ravaging “Five Foot One.” The version of “Louie Louie” is a bit of corrosive fun too. What does make the 90s disc worth its time, if only historically speaking, is Iggy’s backing bands. The guitar sounds and drum sounds are absolutely influenced by metal, effecting a more precise yet still aggressive performance. The classic numbers aren’t quite as raw as they were a decade before, but they still rock hard. Iggy performs here sounding like a hero who finally got his due, and his excitement is plenty clear. He’s older now, so he doesn’t sound like he’s exactly on top of his game, but he holds it down.
Roadkill Rising's final disc accounts for performances after the turn of the millennium, including a few white hot nights with the reunited Stooges. The sound quality on this disc is the best of the four, obviously due to the advances in technology over the thirty or so years prior to the disc's events. The Stooges' reunion performances are quite exciting, highlighted by the Fun House (1970) title track and “Dirt.” Iggy’s energy with the old gang (supplemented by the Minutemen/fIREHOSE bassist/general punk rock/DIY guru Mike Watt, seeing as Dave Alexander passed away many years before) is more intense than it had been in quite some time. He sounds like he’s out for blood during “Not Right” and “Real Cool Time.”
The disc ends with a rather gorgeous set from a night in Paris, when Iggy was promoting his startling and subdued Préliminaires album on a radio broadcast. These soft numbers are cushioned by strings and a morose organ. Iggy even croons in French throughout “Les Feuilles Mortes (Autumn Leaves),” and his highly professional backing group plays each of these numbers with remarkable subtlety, allowing Iggy to test his his quieter side. In truth, had he released this performance as an EP instead of using the studio album, he may have won more accolades. That’s just a theory, and it hardly matters since Préliminaires is a solid studio effort from the man. These recordings from France must have been amazing to watch because it’s a whole new Iggy, one that arrived so late in his career but was worth the wait. You can imagine Iggy in a tuxedo, sauntering solemnly around the stage like he was kicked out of the Rat Pack.
Because these mostly hushed recordings are saved for the end of the last disc in the set, it’s almost as if Iggy had been working towards getting to this point. At least the listener has, and if you can stand to get through the incredible wealth of material on these discs, the end of disc 4 is worth the time. He wraps up the evening with a cover of the soul classic “Shotgun,” and Iggy handles it wonderfully. Even if he’s not the greatest soul singer or crooner, he manages to be convincing enough and comes across honest enough in his delivery that you can stick with him and applaud his successful attempts at versatility.
As a 4-disc set, Roadkill Rising might be too much material, seeing as not all of it is very notable, and much of it suffers from mediocre sound quality. It’s also a little quirky at times when the sound quality will abruptly change between songs as the concerts change. At times it feels slapped together on Shout! Factory’s part, that despite putting together the performances chronologically, the recording qualities often don’t link very well. The live compilation From Here to Eternity from the Clash set a new standard for releases of its kind, in that while it might not be presented chronologically, every song flows into one another naturally with no song sounding out of place. It’s true that the Clash were arguably better documented for such a release than Iggy Pop, but the precedent has been set. Roadkill Rising will undoubtedly only pique the curiosity of hardcore followers, but casual fans will most likely have a frustrating time sifting through the nearly five hours of material.
The Cat’s Meow — This is the LOUDEST record ever. It sounds so wild, it’s absurd. Really, when you’re listening to this album, the guitar claws at your ears and everything else follows behind just pummeling you with mad firepower. This is a record that indubitably lives up to its title. That being said, the mad riffs, supplied by new Stooge James Williamson, are INTENSE. It’s madness. This is a tight-ass record too, coming in at 34 minutes, and there’s barely any time spent not shredding your eardrums. Oh yeah, and the songs are all great and eager to kill you.
Achilles’ Heel — This is the LOUDEST record ever—so much so it gets hard to hear everything that’s going on. Granted, that’s partially the point, but when you’re listening to “Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell,” once that lead line comes in, your ears will be begging for mercy (more specifically your left ear, since the lead is mostly in that channel). It’s some seriously wild, dangerous shit. Also, it’s not a terribly varied record, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be. When it’s not all machine guns and Iggy trying to kill you, there’s “Gimme Danger” and the sludge-blues of “I Need Somebody,” which temper the rest of the record. Furthermore, another chief complaint about Raw Power is that original lead guitarist Ron Asheton plays bass on this record. If this is your introduction to the Stooges (which for many it is, thanks to David Bowie’s production credit), the guitars can be somewhat misleading once you delve into the other records where Asheton is the one laying down the riffs.
Defining Moment — “I am the world’s forgotten boy, the one who searches and destroys!”
Famous Last Words — If you’re looking for ear bleeds, start here.