Fun House

Looking back at the rock and roll of the 1960’s, it can be difficult to understand the fear of rock music as a tool for social collapse without placing myself in a mindset that seems ridiculous. But the Stooge’s second album, Fun House , released just after the end of the decade that solidified rock as the dominant music genre, seemed to summon a new era of social unrest within every individual that heard it, both in its influence and its sound. One of the defining proto-punk masterpieces of the 60s and 70s, alongside the Velvet Underground’s first two records, Fun House’s seven tracks mangled rock and roll into grimy, violent, enthusiastic anthems. The circular, bluesy riffs, mirrored by two guitars on either stereo channel, are consuming and disruptive; the drumming is relatively quiet in the mix but relentless; Iggy swims in the corrosive soundscape, weaving in between guitar lines with howls and screams. It is rock music taken to its extreme, its natural conclusion.

The tracks on Fun House continue over these rock skeletons indefinitely, churning in episodes that end simply when they seem to feel they should end. The Stooges moved past the ragged psychedelia they had achieved on their debut (produced by the Velvet Underground’s John Cale) and into a hellish portrait of filthy reality. ‘1970’ follows suit of ‘1969’ on their debut in being named after the year of release, but that opener for their first album sounds like the Beatles in comparison to ‘1970’, which opens pummeling the listener with another riff that Iggy glides and surfs over, and ends in a cascade of distortion and saxophone. (Their use of saxophone on the final few tracks of this album likely led to the instrument’s frequent use in post-punk and no-wave music.) The title track is the culmination of every previous attempt of reaching dirty, painful ecstasy. Iggy confirms every parent’s worst fears, a “fun house boy” is coming to steal the heart of their child away. The self centered insanity the band brews is repurposed as pleasure by the rock context they place it within, nowhere more evident than in the closing track, ‘LA Blues’, five minutes of raw, structureless chaos. Throughout the entire record the music seems to be teetering on the brink of collapsing in on itself, and on ‘LA Blues’ the collapse occurs. Iggy’s yelps become growls that melt into the sea of distortion. It is monumental, sickening, and furious, everything the Stooges were. If the rest of the album were seduction into the life of a rock star, ‘LA Blues’ is the expression of that life without being filtered through rock itself. Much is made of the influence all three of the Stooges’ original albums had on the punk that would take hold of the 70s, but Fun House is a must listen in its own right.