Iggy Pop may have taken up golf in Miami, but when properly motivated, he’s still plenty capable of sounding like the original dead-end kid wriggling out of a straitjacket. On Skull Ring, motivation arrives in the form of Ron and Scott Asheton, the two surviving members of Pop’s pioneering protopunk band the Stooges, who reunite with the world’s forgotten boy on four tracks.
After thirty years apart, they still sound like the blue-collar skull-crashers they once were, minus a killer track as good as “I Wanna Be Your Dog” or “Loose.” “Little Electric Chair” comes close, with the three Stooges turning the notion of burning flesh into a party for the perverse, complete with syncopated hand claps and war-whoop vocals. Ron Asheton’s strafe-and-destroy guitar is a thing of sheer malice, and it’s thrilling to hear it rip while Pop performs an autopsy on “Dead Rock Star.” But the singer’s production emphasizes sonics rather than songs, as the tossed-off melodies collapse in a riot of guitars and drums.
For hooks, Pop turns to a couple of bands that owe him big, influence-wise: Sum 41 dish the album’s most developed melody, on “Little Know It All,” and Green Day bring a pogo-friendly spunk to “Super-market.” Far more adventurous is Pop’s duet with anti-diva Peaches on the seething electroclash rant “Rock Show.” The acoustic “Till Wrong Feels Right,” which takes its melody from an old Mississippi Fred McDowell song, finds Pop at his feistiest, a music-biz outcast pouring vinegar on old wounds.
Unfortunately, Pop puts the head-banging on autopilot with his longtime touring band, the Trolls, to fill out this overlong seventeen-track album. The Trolls, like most of Pop’s later accomplices, never measure up to the Stooges’ mastery of the hip-shaking, earth-shifting groove. With the Ashetons back on his radar, the Ig’s next move should be obvious.