Teenage Kicks

The Stooges, the Ramones-and the Shangri-Las? It doesn't get much better than this.

By Neil Ferguson
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Aug. 17, 2005

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The Stooges (Deluxe Edition)
Fun House (Deluxe Edition)


First things first. Obviously, Stooges fans of all ages-or come to think of it, any sentient human being with even the merest hint of taste-will already own these albums. But here they are again, remastered and repackaged, with the added incentive of alternate takes, the standard ruse to lure in the desperate, the anal or just those fans with more money than sense. But in this case, who can blame the marketing goons? Because these are still two slices of the most magical, manic rock 'n' soul ever recorded. The Stooges were the ultimate riposte to the end of the '60s. Critics at the time detested them-loathed them, even-but what did they know? Iggy truly was the world's forgotten boy. While his cohorts the Asheton brothers resembled nothing so much as gurning Troglodytes, Iggy was and always will be a true star. He was the complete fantastic foil to their vicious, primitive hoodoo. And he always looked absolutely fabulous, even beautiful-albeit in a psychotic Bambi-eyed kind of way. He took the notion of "butch camp" as pioneered by the Stones, mixed it up with ideas stolen from free jazz, added controlled chaos and ran with it, almost destroying himself in the process. People often harp on about how far ahead of the game the Stooges were. Balls. It's just the rest of the world was too busy trying to catch up. Simply put, these albums are the perfect encapsulation of blank yet focused teenage nihilism. And I'm not talking about spoiled suburban brat rebellion. This is A Clockwork Orange made real. If Alex and his Droogs had formed a band, they would have sounded like this. A+


Various Artists
One Kiss Can Lead to Another: Girl Group Sounds-Lost & Found

This is a fantastic, if somewhat exhausting four-CD box of girl-group madness and tear-sodden hysteria. It's music that, perhaps more than any other pop format, gives vent to ridiculously (if unintentionally) camp melodrama, in which bad, leather-clad, motorcycling boys, usually called Johnny or Terry, do their girls wrong. These are tunes that conjure up sugarcoated innocence, romance and teen dreams (despite the fact that, more often than not, a Machiavellian, middle-aged male sleazebag manager/producer was cynically operating every move behind the scenes). It's wonderful, heartbreaking stuff-conjuring up images of drive-ins, acne-ridden boys attempting to cop a feel, crying into pillows and lingering guilt about being a little too free with your feminine charms. The usual suspects are all here-the Shangri-Las, the Velvelettes-plus myriad oddities and early debuts by the likes of Cher, Toni Basil and what sounds like a near prepubescent Dolly Parton on "Don't Drop Out." Most bizarre of all, though, is a track that stands as the complete antithesis to all the saccharine perfection contained herein. Wanda Jackson's "Funnel of Love" has to be heard to be believed. It's the sound of raw, feral female lust-and one of the most downright weird arrangements ever laid down on vinyl. Imagine the sound of a preacher's daughter, out of her mind on bestial sex and cheap amphetamines, and you're only halfway there. Stupendously odd and endearing, as is the rest of this sublime collection. B+


Weird Tales of the Ramones

The Ramones were both a bridge and natural progression from the innocence and three-minute perfection of '60s teen pop, the raw power of the Stooges and the sass of the New York Dolls. In the midst of mid-'70s corporate sloth, they pretty much became rock's year zero. They were adolescent angst, ennui and romantic classicism all rolled into one perfect cartoonish whole. Young, dumb, lotsa fun-and absolutely clinically brutal. The Ramones were a band for everyone-geeks and freaks, nerds and jocks, queens and punks. They were the Beach Boys, Ronettes and the Bay City Rollers on industrial-strength crank. They were a Roger Corman B-movie come to life. And you have to love a band that can come up with a couplet so outrageously inspired as, "Now I guess I'll have to tell 'em/ That I ain't got no cerebellum." Of course, as with the Stooges albums, you really should own most of this. (Definitely not all, though. There's a little too much of their later, more workmanlike Ramones-by-numbers material.) What makes this release so damned attractive is the obvious love and care that's gone into the packaging. Twenty-five of the world's best comic book artists (and fans), including the likes of Xamie Hernandez, Bill Griffith and Sergio Aragones, were commissioned to design a spectacular comic book (included with the CDs) chronicling the misadventures of Da Bruddas. It's all your fave '60s and '70s Marvel/DC/EC comic art cliches come back to life. It even has a 3-D strip complete with groovy glasses. For this alone it captures the pop-trash aesthetic of the Ramones better than anything I've ever seen. The boys-especially Joey, in all his skinny, geeky, goofball glory-would have loved this. A-

spin cycle

Leela James
A Change Is Gonna Come
Warner Bros.

For those who love the deep, soulful stylings of Joss Stone but would much prefer to hear that shit coming out of the mouth of an actual black woman, you can't go wrong with this girl and her debut album. James brings the bluesy, Memphis-style, been-there-done-that soul you'd think a young gal like her would be too callow to exhibit on her first outing. It helps that she has a roster of superstar producers, including Wyclef Jean, Raphael Saadiq and Kanye "you know my song's gonna be a hit, so why we bullshittin'?" West, who amazingly assembles tunes that collectively and continually accentuate James' wicked vocals. As the title implies, James takes a chance and covers the Sam Cooke classic, which she does with somber, respectful restraint. Above all, James proves she's indeed an old soul in a young body-one who knows how to deliver the goods. (Craig D. Lindsey)


PJ Morton
2PM Music

Is it gospel or soul? That's the question continually tossed around regarding the indie debut release of this New Orleans native, and with good reason. Morton, son of gospel legend Bishop Paul S. Morton, assembles a simply crafted neo-soul album that's inspirational enough to play on gospel radio. (He's one of the few artists who's reviewed on SoulTracks.com and GospelFlava.com.) There are many tracks that'll have you wondering if he's talking about his love for a woman or his love for our Lord and savior (although on "Heavenly Father" you kinda get from the jump who he's talking about). But the album is melodious and well-executed enough for us heathens to enjoy. Morton, who pretty much wrote and produced everything, has a soothing, inviting voice that makes his equally soothing, inviting lyrics all the more enticing. With its mix of boho R&B and enlightening liveliness, Emotions may be one of those few albums that both saved and unsaved people can dig with equal satisfaction. (C.D.L.)

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