Last night, while Iron Man 2 had its world premiere a few blocks down on Hollywood Boulevard, Morgan Neville's new doc Search and Destroy: Iggy And The Stooges' Raw Power was unveiled to a packed house of invited guests at the Egyptian Theater.
The juxtaposition between mass-market hoopla and comparatively down-low happening fit the story told in Neville's film: In the shadows of something more marketable and glam (cough, David Bowie), The Stooges made a record, Raw Power, that was like, as Johnny Marr calls it in the film, “a message from some alluring underworld.” The Stooges' sound was unadulterated, unprecedented and, though totally unfashionable and un-commercial, in terms of sheer relevancy, has outlived most of the popular culture of its day.
So goes the film's opening quote, from Lester Bangs: “You may find yourself repulsed by them, you may not be able to abide a single note of their music, but they are undeniably the sound and look of the future.”
TV-length at 45 minutes (it's included in the 4-disc limited edition box set re-release of Raw Power, which hits stores today), the doc briefly tells the story of the band's formation (and recent reformation, with Mike Watt on bass), but mostly focuses on the recording of their third album, under the auspices of Bowie's London-based record label.
The meat of the film is its candid interviews with Iggy. In one, he fiddles with a soundboard, isolating specific tracks of the album. When he gets to his own cooing back-up vocals on “Raw Power,” he exclaims, “I forgot about that!”–and then concisely, hilariously explains exactly why such a hard-charging rock record needed the equivalent of a buried doo-wop backing vocal. Listening to the riff of another song, he explains, “It sounds a little bit like a bordello, and implies a piano, even though there isn't one.” When he says shit like that, it makes sense! Iggy may look worse for wear (in concert footage circa 2009 included in the film, he's so puffy and veiny that you really wish he'd give it up and go buy a shirt), but he also comes off as completely lucid, funny, and rather brilliant.
Of course, the film also has its fair share of punk-to-the-bone (and to the point of self-parody) appearances from elder statesmen and woman–Henry Rollins ranks Iggy's writing above “Bill Shakespeare,” and Chrissie Hynde, giving token chick testimony, shows up wearing fingerless gloves and an anti-corporate novelty T-shirt, as if having been given a quick makeover at Hot Topic on the way in. But such annoyances are minor, and way overbalanced by the pleasure of Iggy's company. Just hearing him affect a prissy English accent in imitation of David Bowie is worth the price of the box set on its own.