Themes From Great Cities

It might have come to your attention that I'm not a regular poster of love and understanding, which you will just have to get used to. I will however, have bursts of creativity where I move completely randomly from post to post with no rhyme or reason. I have recently posted a few singles (7 & 12”) and the odd bootleg which have been received very well by all who visit. More of the same will continue as you, dear readers, seem to be enjoying them.

Some of the rips are my own, but many more are from other blogs and I’m just sharing the wealth. If other bloggers out there wish to share the rips from my posts, please as I do, host them yourself. To combat this, the FLAC files that are over 6 months old will be replaced with MP3 files.

Finally I am happy to re-up old posts where the link has expired. Please comment in the relevant posts comments box.


Kill City (Re-Upped)

To say Iggy Pop had hit bottom in 1975 is an understatement; after the final collapse of the Stooges, Iggy sank deep into drug addiction and depression, and he eventually checked himself into a mental hospital in a desperate effort to get himself clean and functional again. At the same time, James Williamson, his guitarist and writing partner in the last edition of the Stooges, still believed their collaboration had some life in it, and he talked his way into Jimmy Webb's home studio to record demos in hopes of scoring a record deal. Iggy checked out of the hospital for a weekend to cut vocal tracks, and while the demos they made were quite good, no record companies were willing to take a chance on them. The tapes sat unnoticed until 1977, when Bomp! Records issued the 1975 demos under the title Kill City after Iggy launched a comeback with the David Bowie-produced The Idiot. Kill City never hits as hard as the manic roar of the Stooges' Raw Power, but the songs are very good, and the album's more measured approach suits the dark, honest tone of the material. The sense of defeat that runs through "Sell Your Love," "I Got Nothin'," and "No Sense of Crime" was doubtless a mirror of Iggy's state of mind, but he expressed his agony with blunt eloquence, and his sneering rejection of the Hollywood street scene in "Lucky Monkeys" is all the more cutting coming from a man who had lived through the worst of it. And in the title song, Iggy expressed his state of mind and sense of purpose with a fierce clarity: "If I have to die here, first I'm going to make some noise." Considering Iggy's condition in 1975, his vocals are powerful and full-bodied, as good as anything on his solo work of the 1970s. The music is more open and bluesy than on Raw Power, and while Williamson's guitar remains thick and powerful, here he's willing to make room for pianos, acoustic guitars, and saxophones, and the dynamics of the arrangements suggest a more mature approach after the claustrophobia of Raw Power. Kill City is rough, flawed, and dark, but it also takes the pain of Iggy's nightmare days and makes something affecting out of it, and considering its origins, it's a minor triumph.
Sadly, though, original CD versions of Kill City are taken off of vinyl, making one wonder just what may have happened to the master tapes. A remixed and remastered Kill City (not unlike what Iggy did to Raw Power) wouldn’t be bad thing at all, but one wonders if the tapes have merely disintegrated under the weight of their own existence. Judging from the fact that Iggy himself barely survived that period of his history, it wouldn’t be at all surprising.

It's fair to say, that with fifty years in show business, everything Iggy Pop has done has been scrutinised to a fine point. The man has more back-story than Jesus, and there have been a few biographies written about him. Paul Trynka's 'Open Up and Bleed' is perhaps the best, most in-depth account on the life of Iggy Pop. It's a fascinating read from cover to cover, and gives a little extra perspective on his life from before the Stooges up to their semi-recent reformation. It also covers the recording of Kill City, Iggy's 'lost' album between the disaster that was the end of the Stooges the first time around and his peak period working with Bowie on The Idiot and Lust For Life. Originally recorded as a demo in stop start spurts as Pop was ferried by an erstwhile Stooges guitarist James Williamson from the psych ward to Jimmy Webb's home studio for vocal takes, Kill City really is the missing link between Raw Power and The Idiot.
Or rather, it would be if it hadn't been released already. The original recording was overdubbed and remixed by Williamson, long after he and Pop re-appropriated the original tapes, and was roundly panned by critics after being released on Bomp at the same time that two infinitely superior Iggy albums were on the shelves. As such Kill City doesn't represent a hidden diamond lost in the sands of time. Instead it stands as more of a black mark against the names of both men, and that is why this re-release has significance to the average Iggy Pop fan. After the sterling work done on The Stooges reissues, the chance for audible improvement on the original recording is tantalising. Will shifting some of the sonic grime afford the album a new status after the public gets a chance to hear it as it should have been?
There's no escaping the psychotic dynamism of 'Kill City', a song about living fast and potentially dying young. When Iggy suggests that LA is a "loaded gun" and that you could end up "overdosed and on your knees", he's reading out what could have been the end of his life story. The riff is one of Williamson's very finest, too. As Iggy was burning out, Williamson was just burning, and here he nails down the kind of solo that most rock guitarists would give their eye teeth just to be able to play. And the mix is well and truly fixed too, with vocals and guitars prominent, but the separation between the best of the rest of the instruments is noticeably improved from the thin sounding and tinny original.
'Sell Your Love', a Rolling Stones tribute is also definitely better, the sax work pulled away from the main body to provide depth instead of clutter, and the backing vocals are also far better defined. If I was a gambling man, I'd wager that Williamson had bad reviews ringing in his ears from the Seventies and had given improving the album some serious thought well before rejoining the Stooges. All speculation aside, there are improvements everywhere. 'No Sense Of Crime' is saved from the gutter and the savage percussive beating it took from stray bongos in the original mix, while 'I Got Nothin', a late era Stooges cast-off is given a boost by having the drums pushed up and the backing vocals taken down a touch. The song loses some of the sloppy brutality that the Stooges gave it live, and gets a bit more of a Rolling Stones makeover. In fact, Mick and Keith cast a long shadow over most of the record.
Working within the boundaries set by another (better) band like the Stones is a comfort but also a hindrance here, and highlights the lack of truly original, sharp songs actually recorded during the sessions. 'Consolation Prizes' is a throwaway Stonesy romp, and will please and infuriate in equal measure. 'Night Theme' and 'Night Theme (reprise)' are excellent spooky, spare instrumentals, but in total come in at two minutes 30 seconds. If you were to remove them from the track listing altogether you have nine tracks that run to about half an hour. If it weren't for their high quality, a cynic might suggest that they were padding, making the album look like it contained more material than it really did. There are a couple of old Stooges tracks in there, and the rest generally doesn't have the aggression of old, or the subtle verve of the later Bowie-era work.
'Johanna' is another Stooges chestnut, but is also the one instance where the new mix doesn't improve anything. Unless you really like cheesy Seventies sax poured over everything, in which case, this is the song for you. 'Beyond The Law' uses sax more sparingly, and works much better, with a bit more in the way of tempo and genuine defiance when Iggy screams out that "the real scene is out beyond the law". In balance, Kill City has never sounded better, and is about to be unleashed as it should have been at the time. Sadly, it's going to let everyone know that it, give or take a couple of highlights, was a stop-gap record all along. The mythos that surrounds the recording of Kill City may give it a little more interest and flavour for fans, but unless you're a die hard, this is one reissue that you can probably afford to miss.


Two versions of the same album here for your enjoyment. The original Vinyl to CD and the CD Remaster, both in uninspiring MP3 @ 320kbps

Iggy Pop And James Williamson; Kill City

1.     Kill City
2.     Sell Your Love
3.     Beyond The Law
4.     I Got Nothin’
5.     Johanna
6.     Night Theme
7.     Night Theme (Reprise)
8.     Consolation Prizes
9.     No Sense Of Crime
10.Lucky Monkeys
11.Master Charge