The ‘Legacy’ version of 1973′s ‘Raw Power’, produced by the Ig himself, came out in 2010. I missed it, as I already had both the vinyl Bowie-produced disc from its year of release, and even the 1997 initial Iggy-produced re-release. Confused? I bet. That’s CBS for you. They know a cash cow when they see/hear one - Bob Dylan and Miles Davis being two particularly high-yielding ungulates, through this Legacy shtick. Sadly for CBS, The Stooges output was as minimal as their music (and as goddamn good!)
I’ve only got three other records in three or more ‘editions’, for various reasons, I think - ‘Unknown Pleasures’, ‘Forever Changes’ and ‘Highway 61 Revisited’. What a rip-off, of course, just as we suspected back in the day. This stuff should be given out for a few pence (in hard copy), not for several pounds, it’s all over, or nearly over, fifty years old, after all. But I shelled out six pounds, utterly ‘out of time’ of course, for yet another copy of ‘Raw Power, but only because of the fact that the ‘additional material’ (for a change, as usually this stuff is utterly disposable), consisted of a ‘bootleg’ concert, recorded at a gig in Atlanta, Georgia on the 1973 tour. The latter sounds like a genuine Theater of Cruelty event, as compared to the tame ‘Theater of Banality’ that Wolf Eyes presented last night at Cafe Oto, in the guise of ‘really weird stuff’. Oh Yeah, is that right, you guys?
This is not a record review, more of a rant, as you might have gathered. The Atlanta recording is poor, but its powerful quintessence is distilled through the alembic of The Stooge’s pulverising sound. This is Rock at its very best (The Rolling Stones deserve credit here, as if their own brand has been filtered through The Stooges metal grinder). The received wisdom is that the band birthed punk, but I’ve never heard a punk band come anywhere near this degree of intensity and genuine hostility. Maybe the Pistols on a bad night. ‘Open Up and Bleed’ and ‘Head On’ are equally belligerent in totally different ways and are worth the price of admission by themselves. I still play the latter at least three times a day - much more invigorating than coffee or cocaine, I’m sure. A masterpiece in tension and rock integrity (or ‘tensegrity’ as one of Barry Guy’s albums would have it).
Now then, now then - Wolf Eyes. I saw this lot at The Underworld in Camden in April 2007, and quite liked them, although I can’t take more than half an hour or so of their metier to be frank. Very much the law of diminishing returns. They were OK last night at Oto, but I regretfully passed on the last set which they assured us was going to be ‘really weird’, as a sort of “you don’t have to be wired to work here, but…” warning sign of rapidly approaching ennui. What interested me, in the absence of anything of such nature on the (non-existent) stage was some context - we were probably twice the age of anyone else there (yes, it shows, doesn’t it?); my increasing annoyance at the Oto ‘thing’, i.e. no stage, so that the three or four tallish head-nodding ‘freaks’ at front and close to the band completely obscured our view of them - even the singer commented on this ‘distressing’ factor. Get a stage, Hamish! And some air conditioning while you’re at it. And some decent seating. Enough already. Oto is beginning to feel like any other ‘fuck the audience’ venue, coasting on its own smugness, and the fact that hipsters will put up with any old crap if they think its ‘authentic’.
There being minimal seating tonight (no-one gives up a seat for an old man, selfish hippie-sters!!), my increasingly-irritated attention was drawn to the audience, and it occurred to me how similar to ‘rock’ audiences this so-obviously-would-be-’edgy-experimental’ group’s fans appeared to be, and just how many rock gestures the band itself were essaying.. The singer was wearing wraparound shades and managed to look like John Cale on the Velvet’s first Verve album , combined with ‘Tilt’-era Scott Walker but shouting out some terrible sub-Beat lyrics, to somewhat harsh the vibe; the guitarist wearing his ‘axe’ like Peter Hook or Paul Simenon signifying louche ‘couldn’t-give-a ‘fuckness’. Oh. Plastic Inevitable, where art thou? Baseball caps have, at some point, have also appeared to have regained some sort of unpleasant purchase (I longed to don a MAGA cap as a protest), as well as some version of ‘free form head banging’. God, I feel old and yet not so old at the same time!! Is this some sort of meta-something?
Everything comes back, if you give it time. Like TB.
Some comparisons that occurred while Wolf Eyes were ‘freaking out weirdly’ - AMM in their contact-mike late sixties glory ( a bigger sound, but with one hundredth of the technology that the Eyes have at their disposal); pre-’Urban Gamelan’ 23 Skidoo, mid-eighties Swans, but minus Michael Gira’s genuinely disturbing control-psychosis. In trying to make sense of Wolf Eyes, the whole process irritated me so much, that I did compare them in my head to the 2007 version, which I recall (one of the most dangerous of cognitive activities) as being far less lazy and ‘look at me, I’m rilly, rilly dangerous’ yawnworthiness.
As Jonathan Pie would say, after twiddling his earpiece for the final time, “the audience appeared to love it”. Oh when, oh when, will a genuinely new and exciting music emerge? Can it? This gig was all so much self-congratulation ( as I’ve increasingly observed in this so-called ‘experimental’ scene) and posturing. Saddo that I am, I’m finding refuge, after my bath in high art, in ‘Head on’, as at least it reminds me that I’m still alive, and that this sort of magnificent intensity might again be reached..