By Dalton Ross
Updated February 23, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST
Chapman Baehler

History is littered with once-vital rock acts whose reunion efforts couldn’t come close to capturing the oomph of the original outings. So let’s take a look at Iggy Pop’s seminal pre-punk outfit, the Stooges, who are back with a new album titled The Weirdness. When other bands of the late ’60s/early ’70s were busy singing about peace, love, and understanding, Iggy was out to search and destroy. He smeared peanut butter all over himself and crooned about being someone’s mutt — all pretty outlandish stuff. The band’s 1969 self-titled debut was a tad uneven, with some filler (the 10-minute ”We Will Fall”) and songs that sounded suspiciously familiar (”1969” and ”Little Doll” are pretty much the exact same tune), but its nihilistic high points (”No Fun,” ”I Wanna Be Your Dog”) planted the seeds of a musical revolution.

Filled with Iggy’s random yelping and Ron Asheton’s buzz-saw guitar, the band’s follow-up, 1970’s Fun House, was quite simply one of the dirtiest, grimiest, and most sweat-stained albums ever. It’s hard now to appreciate just how radical this record was upon its release, but suffice it to say it’s not often you hear a lead singer coughing over the music, as Iggy does on ”T.V. Eye.” The album felt primal, unpredictable, dangerous. It still does. Even with a rejiggered lineup and piss-poor David Bowie production, 1973’s Raw Power contained enough dirgy anthems (”Gimme Danger,” ”Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell”) to cement the Stooges’ reputation as the forefathers of punk. They were a band that never sold a lot of records, but they mattered. The Weirdness, the group’s first full-length release in 34 years, may not do either.

Asheton can still manufacture some cutting, blues-drenched riffs, most notably on ”Trollin”’ and ”ATM,” but he now seems to be playing his guitar less as a weapon and more as — gasp! — an instrument. And while Iggy has never been a master lyricist — his simplicity, such as chanting ”I feel alright!” about 312 times in a row, has always been his charm — there are several stanzas (”She wore some short shorts, man, she filled them out/ These bodies only come from way down South”) that come off more corny than minimalist.

There are certainly moments of The Weirdness that rock. A few of these new Stooges songs may even cause you to stand up and take notice. The difference is, the old ones made you duck for cover. B-