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Main Category: Punk/Grunge
Also applicable: Art Rock, Pop Rock, Meta-Rock
Starting Period: The Punk/New Wave Years
Also active in: The Divided Eighties, From Grunge To The Present Day



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Year Of Release: 1977

This is actually something of a true cross between Iggy the Stooge and Iggy the solo artist, in all senses possible. Kill City was recorded as a duo with former colleague Stooge, bass player James Williamson, somewhere around 1975, i.e. two years after the band's last regular release. However, due to the usual intricacies of showbiz, the record was actually delayed and not released until late 1977, which led to an overabundance of Iggy in that punk-happy year (two new studio albums and one 'older' studio album in a row).

That might sound natural, of course (what a better year for the Godfather of punk to make such a massive reappearance?), but Kill City is by no means a punk album. Yes, we all know that Iggy's solo comeback in 1977 was very much due to collaboration with David Bowie, who steered Mr Pop away into the world of electronic and New Wave-ish perversion; however, as it turns out, Iggy wasn't that hot on recapturing the paranoid evil vibe of the Stooges even when he was not working under direct supervision from Ziggy Stardust. (Hey, how would you like that: 'Iggy and Ziggy sat in a wall, Iggy and Ziggy had a great fall'. Refers to the artistic decline of the two men's careers. And features an obscure reference to a Stooges song, too).

Back to the album. Kill City is pretty loud, but it ain't exactly a fierce loudness; the record is mostly based on huge, wall-of-sound arrangements, with keyboards and saxes and lots o' guitars pushing up that sound and using it to mask the fact that the melodies aren't very good. Well, I suppose most of them are acceptable, but since when has Mr Chief Stooge been the master of catchy melody? He used the Power. Here, he hardly uses that Power, but he hasn't yet begun to revel in the gloomy decadent Bowie-inspired image, either, so it's kinda mediocre.

Not that the record lacks energy, if you wanna separate the 'energy' notion from 'power'. There's plenty of the standard Stooges-inherited nihilistic screaming here, culminating in such a classic as 'I Got Nothin', that alternates from a consciously beautiful sonic texture to a wild rave-up, obviously imitating a person's gradual realization that, although the world is beautiful, he ain't really be a-usin' that beauty in his own free way, know what I mean? Likewise, 'Kill City' and 'Beyond The Law' are also pretty impressive as far as the energy level goes. Speed these little ditties up and you got yourself some prime Clash-type punkers.

That said, the lack of any kind of hooks really knocks me down... isn't it ironic that Iggy had to wait for David Bowie, of all people, to present him with these hooks when David hasn't ever been a master of hooks himself? This only goes to show how Kill City lacks true melodic strength. All of a sudden, we get a bunch of psycho-jazz-rock instrumentals, some pretty cool in a subtle George Harrison kind of way ('Master Of Charge', with a beautiful slide guitar part), some completely pointless ('Night Theme', which sounds like a mockery of some Broadway theme - and it's reprised twice in a row, which obviously proves that the lack of two different sides on a CD is not necessarily a good thing).

The second side actually sucks completely, bar 'Master Of Charge'. Frankly speaking, I don't have the least idea whose personal world this album might really rock down and out. Stooges' fans will certainly complain of the music's meekness; solo Iggy fans will complain of the roughness and monotonousness. Yes, there are some good seeds here, but just about every track needs some complementary detail: a better hook, a better vocal delivery, a different type of production, you know the score. There will be people to whom this 'middle-of-the-road' state of Iggy's mind will appeal most of all, of course, but I dare say these will constitute a minority. So perhaps you'd better save your money and search out some cool Stooges bootleg instead. Warning given out.



Year Of Release: 1977

The biggest problem when you're dealing with 'classic' Iggy Pop records is that you never know where Iggy actually ends and somebody else begins - most notably, David Bowie, who not only produced this tasty little sucker, but was also responsible for most of the arrangements and co-wrote every single tune with Iggy. To appreciate The Idiot fully, one should certainly take it in the general context of the epoch: it was recorded at the end of 1976 and in early 1977 in Berlin, where Iggy was sitting together with Bowie and Brian Eno, and it's the epoch that eventually brought in all the New Wave and Electronica revolution. Remember that? Low? Heroes? Before And After Science? Ah, those were the days that heralded the last truly great changes on the rock scene...

But I digress. Anyway, Iggy's debut doesn't sound anything like the Stooges, if you didn't already know that. Instead, Iggy and David select a more calmed down (although not any less menacing), rhythmic, slow groove, plaster it with all kinds of robotic synthesizer patterns and throw in a bit of gloomy decadence, dark, disturbing imagery, and shameless 'posing'. In those respects, there are lots of things that Idiot calls to mind: the Doors (mostly through Iggy's voice that often ends up sounding like vintage Jim Morrison), Lou Reed (not surprising, since Bowie produced Lou's Transformer), Roxy Music (a link through Eno), and, of course, Kraftwerk - particularly considering the 'industrial noises' of the last track on the album. In short, a bizarre and multi-sided melting pot. At the same time, most of the songs actually sound alike: just the same repetitive 'drone' that nevertheless possesses certain hypnotizing features. This monotonousness can sometimes get on your nerves, but you shouldn't pay attention, just follow the groove and the groove'll lead you to the light.

Anyway, not a single song on here is bad, so why do I complain? 'Sister Midnight' opens the album with sharp, 'acidly distorted' guitar riffs and spooky, equally distorted vocals from Iggy, plus all the different synthesizer beeps and bleeps you'd certainly be expecting from the album. This one is pure Bowie. However, the second number, 'Nightclubbing', with its less robotic, but equally steady, almost Nazi (!) pace, is slightly less personalized and actually, it's an absolute masterpiece when I come to think of it. Lyrically, it seems to be 'celebrating' the pleasures of night life, but in a very ironic key ('Nightclubbing, we're nightclubbing, we're an ice machine'), while musically it's energetic, decadent, and deeply depressive at once - as if the singer is actually stuck in that 'nightclubbing' image and cannot get out of it no matter how hard he tries. In fact, he doesn't even try: he's so stoned out of his mind that he doesn't even consider the possibility of breaking out of that nightmare. Whoah. Gives me the creeps.

The first side has some more of these eerie little vamp-tunes, sometimes faster ('Funtime'), sometimes slower ('Baby'), but while the quality of the groove might differ in a very subjective way, they are all compelling, that way or another. And the casual Bowie fan will be pleasantly surprised to encounter 'China Girl' - yes, the song that Bowie later turned into a hit for himself had actually been written six years earlier in collaboration with Iggy for this exact album. The funny thing is, while Iggy's version is slightly different (a bit disorganized, only too natural for the chief Stooge), I still can't decide which one is better...

Most of the second side, though, is dedicated to two large epics - 'Dum Dum Boys' and 'Mass Production'. The former is more or less in the Lou Reed tradition ('tales of weird street life'), all drenched in noisy, 'irritating', feedback-and-fuzz-filled guitar riffs and distorted poisonous organ tones, while Iggy 'declarates' the subject in that genuine Jim Morrison intonation. The latter, though, is more Kraftwerk - it's called 'Mass Production', after all, and it cleverly uses the ambivalence of the term: Iggy's asking for 'another girl' ('I'm buried deep in mass production/You're nothing new'), while the instrumentation is drowned in all kinds of industrial noises obviously borrowed from Kraftwerk. Sometimes the noises get REALLY ugly, but then again, it's mass production. You're supposed to tolerate all these ugly noises like you tolerate all the ugly noises while working at the factory. So don't you dare to argue about that!

God, I love that album. I would have really given it more, if not for the fact that I really don't feel too much Iggy here. Oh, he's there all right, but it's such a curious mix of styles and influences that there's too few independent identity to the record. Still, it's an absolute must-have for any fan of that "Berlin era", not to mention a must-have for any Bowie fan. Fans of the Stooges, however, might not really like this, so be careful. This ain't no punk!



Year Of Release: 1977

Okay, it was a hard task - I was sometimes tempted to draw the rating up to four stars, but something deep inside kept pulling me back and squeezing and whining, 'this is really comparable to Idiot? This is at least one notch inferior!' I had to agree, or I would have been left without my entrails. I'm a-guessin' it was a nasty genie sent by some prog rock deity. Eh?

Lust For Life is a far more optimistic record than its predecessor, even if it was recorded under more or less the same conditions. Once again, Bowie co-wrote almost all the tunes with Iggy (the man must have been working 24 hours a day to put out four self-penned records in one year - two for himself and two for the old pal), but the emphasis here is not on the abstract nightmarish electronic urbanistic landscapes, but rather on adequately capturing Iggy's own personality. Almost all of the songs, in fact, are deeply intimate and somehow relate to Iggy's own experiences and problems; and while some of them have to be considered 'difficult' songs, relating to Iggy's psychological rebirth at the time, others are fairly simple - 'Tonight', for instance, is just a love ballad, albeit somewhat untrivial.

What bothers me most about the album is that the melodies don't work that good this time. Not only the melodies, even the album sound itself becomes kinda thinner and simpler - a strange thing, considering that Bowie was making his albums sound denser and thicker and more 'robotic' all the time. Perhaps it was Iggy's idea to liberate himself out of the tight clutches of his producer, like, 'Throw 'em stupid synths out of the window man, they STINK! Just gimme some decent guitar and cut out all that electronic crap!'. That's just my feeble hypothesis, though. Not that there aren't any synths at all - the album still bears the usual mark of Bowie's Berlin period, it's just that it isn't so blatantly obvious this time around. Anyway, I started with complaining about the melodies, and the melodies really don't suit me - where Idiot had lots of catchy, well-written tunes, Lust For Life sounds as if Bowie just hastily mishmashed a bunch of rhythm tracks and gave them away to Iggy, for the man to fool with them further in any way he wanted.

Now Iggy is certainly a creative guy - all of this stuff sounds pretty interesting. The title track is fast and raunchy, but the lyrical matter is actually an anti-drug message, if anybody had any doubt: what is this 'lust for life' but a desperate wish to quit his old ways? Even if the songue itself has a tongue-in-cheek interpretation as well, of course (be prepared that most Iggy Pop songs have at least two interpretations, usually contradicting themselves in a radical way). 'Sweet Sixteen' returns us to the world of nasty guitar distortion as Iggy impersonates a life-tortured person, you know, the outcast guy who really needs some but never gets any; 'Some Weird Sin' shows us the more audacious, braggard face of Iggy ('well I never got my license to live, they won't give it up, so I stand at the world's edge'), set to a fast, typically Bowie-beat and... have I mentioned yet that Iggy has spent so much time working with Bowie he began sounding like David himself? I could mistake him for Bowie on at least half of the tracks on here, but I'm pretty positive it is Iggy and not David doing guest vocals.

'The Passenger' abandons the raunchiness and bravado and concentrates on the romantic side of Iggy - all ye comparing gentlemen, draw out your Lou Reed comparisons now. Is it David joining in on the la-la-las in the chorus? Probably is. One of my favourites, though, is 'Success', because it's one of the less serious tracks on the album - you can almost hear the guys falling over themselves in the studio and dying of laughter as Iggy roars out 'Here comes success, here comes success, hooray success, hooray success!'. The bestestest part of it, I swear, is how the backing vocal harmonies repeat absolutely every line, every expression, every intonation that Iggy belts out, until he ends it all with a glorious 'oh, shit!' - 'OH SHI-I-I-I-I-T' the backing harmonies trustily call back. This is probably the defining moment of the album. Don't ask me why.

In any case, this is a pretty good record, although it's hardly guranteed to knock you over, especially if you have already heard some Bowie, some Lou Reed, some Stooges and... er... some Bob Dylan before it. It lacks the uniqueness and freshness of Idiot (perverse American artistism a la Lou Reed + New Wavish electronic weird melodies a la Bowie/Eno = terrific formula!), simply because I don't feel that much Bowie/Eno on here. But it still comes close, and is a must for everybody who valued Idiot for all its worth.


T. V. EYE ***1/2

Year Of Release: 1978

The story goes as follows: the RCA label gave Iggy 90,000$ and told him to prepare his last album, after which they'd kick him off the label because he didn't bring 'em enough revenue. Iggy figured out that it might just as well be the last time he found himself in possession of such a sum, so instead of going and making some new stuff he spent 5,000$ to patch up some crappy live recordings made on his last few tours, released them as a live album and pocketed the rest of the money. And that's the only excuse for the existence of this live album, and this is why most fans and critics alike consider TV Eye a major embarrassment in Iggy's career and prefer to never actually speak of it.

So let's speak of it! I, perosnally, dig the hell out of the recordings. Sure, the sound quality is atrocious, one of the worst I've ever heard. Worse, this quality is different in different cases - some tracks are recorded quite decently, while others are a real pain in the ass, and the sound just jumps from one headphone to another like a bunch of eight-legged hares on turpentine. But let me just remind you that Iggy's 1977 concerts were to a large degree intending to recapture the old Stooges' spirit: Iggy might have gone all Bowiefied in the studio, but the live performances were just as loud, gritty, messy, and vicious as before. The backing band, which now included an extra keyboards player (sometimes Bowie himself supplied keyboards on stage!), played the same raw, visceral punkish three-chord sludge; granted, the youthful exuberant days of the Stooges would have been hard to recapture, but at least they came close.

In that respect, the sound quality doesn't really bother me all that much - the music is supposed to be sloppy and barely audible. One of the main ingredients of the Stooges' charm was that you had to cut through all the loudness, sloppiness and noise to bare the band's bones and perceive their great, groovy melodies. In the same way, T.V. Eye requires a little bit of patience to be thoroughly enjoyed...

...well, not thoroughly. I can't say that I'm particularly fond of Iggy's band ripping through three old Stooges classic numbers. I haven't heard the original version of 'I Got A Right', but I sure heard the original versions of 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' and 'T.V. Eye', and they just beat the stuffing out of these performances - hey, they may scream and shout and kick ass all right, but these versions are positively tepid. What's that? Iggy opening 'T.V. Eye' with a weak 'Lou-oord!', instead of that mind-blowing guttural holler in the original? And what's that crappy synthesizer sludge all over the song? I hate that kind of stuff! This ain't supposed to be showin' Der Kraftwerk Einfluss, if you know what I be a-meanin'! On the good side, I positively love this version of 'Dirt'. Great phased-out guitars, and Iggy's great when he goes 'ooooh... I beeen HURT!' Great song, great version - it doesn't require that much gut energy, but it does require passion, and while Iggy's energy might have had better days, his passion is still fully there.

As for the newer stuff, well, you wouldn't really recognize it. Where are those quiet, humbly-menacing arrangements? Iggy roars as if he were possessed, the guitars make all kinds of disgusting distorted noises, and the sound quality is so poor it's almost genius. 'Nightclubbing' was originally a little innocent goth dittie, based on keyboards and a low philosophic growl. Now it's a huge evil goth epic, based on guitars and a manic paranoid grunt. 'Funtime', 'Sweet Sixteen' and 'Lust For Life' are equally loud and braggard, and tons of fun. Sure, there's nothing particularly substantial here, but it's at least better than ninety percent of hardcore punk because it's all based on real melodies. Real melodies and a cool artsy dude who really knows what he's doing. Trust me - it just takes a few listens and you'll be merrily tapping your foot and playing air guitar along with Ricky Gardiner and the rest.

Of course, it's hardly an essential record for Iggy fans, but then again, I doubt that any Iggy fan will really want to be left without such a priceless document of their hero. Perhaps there are better bootlegs out there, but hey, I wouldn't know about that! I'm a quiet little law-abiding gentleman. (Except I have all those Iggy Pop albums for free in MP3 format, of course, and the poor chap never got one penny from me, but hey, I'm not exactly doing the guy a disservice, am I?)


NEW VALUES ****1/2

Year Of Release: 1979

Iggy's masterpiece. Some critics slam this stuff, saying that while the songwriting isn't at all bad, this was essentially Pop's "New Wave album" that had synth crap all over it and sounds dated and all. (See the AMG review, for instance). Traditional question is - do these guys actually listen to the albums they review? I didn't even notice the synthesizers on here until I read their opinions. If anything could be called Iggy's 'New Wave' album, it's The Idiot - that one was definitely awash in synthesizers and stuff 'cause it had Bowie all over it.

But screw it all, it doesn't actually matter if there are synthesizers on here or not. The important thing is - this is the most consistent, entertaining, and even moving set of little personage images that Iggy had constructed so far. His previous albums painted grim depressing landscapes and ominous pictures of urban life; this one has nothing of the kind, just a brief run through different life situations ranging from philosophic/melancholic to near-comic, with lyrics that are always meaningful and almost always subtle and suggestive. In the title track, he says that 'I'm looking for new values, but nothing comes my way', and that's about the main motto for the record: life either stinks or it's just a plain ridiculous and gross thing, and there's nothing we can do but accept the status quo. In this way, it would be really hard to find somebody who wouldn't be ready to empathize with most of the record...

And hey, the music's nice, too - nothing extraordinary, but the grooves that Iggy establishes here with his backing band are all solid. The sound is stripped down: sure, the ballads feature some organ and brass, and there are some synthesizer bleeps to be found on several of the songs, but mostly it's just the guitar player that lays down a steady repetitive riff and maybe just one or two punkish solos on top, and Iggy sings/roars/recites his lyrics on top. Since most of the grooves are really short, nothing here truly overstays its welcome, one image regularly exchanges with another, and you get a really multi-faceted perspective. I don't even care that much of the stuff on New Values seems to revel in its 'unoriginality' - partially copying, quoting, or ripping-off Iggy's past achievements themselves, and partially ripping off other bands. I'm pretty sure that Iggy went for this intentionally on this record, to demonstrate its being tied in with the general 'creative rock'n'roll' scene of today and yesterday.

The rockers here are all great in their humbleness. Like I said, the title track is a pretty good indication of Iggy's philosophy... funny enough, the riff on here reminds me very much of the Stones' riffage on 'Shattered', released just a year ago, but if it is a rip-off, it's a very telling rip-off: 'Shattered' was one of the best songs on Some Girls, a vivid and biting picture of life in New York City, and it has much in common with New Values. 'I'm bored' begins with the immortal line 'I'm bored! I'm the chairman of the board!', so you can tell what this is all about easily. And it's good, too, reminding me a bit of 'Loose' from Funhouse, only milder, yet by no means less hard-hitting when you come to think about it.

'Five Foot One' is an undoubted masterpiece, beginning very similar to the Doors' 'Changeling'... okay, I'm gonna stop with these comparisons because you never know when you're right or when you're wrong with this one, fact is, this is a very 'influenced' record, no denying it, but that's its point. 'I wish life could be sweet as magazines', Iggy proclaims in this one in between all the gulps and yells and complaints about his height while the guitar punches out a breathtaking riff cleverly emphasized by additional brassy grunts. Hmm... isn't 'How Do Ya Fix A Broken Part''s title reminiscent of 'How Can You Mend A Broken Heart', even if it ain't no sappy Bee Gees ballad? Isn't 'African Man' kinda reminiscent of the Stones' 'Monkey Man'? (And the 'I live in a BUSH' line reminiscent of Captain Beefheart's grim 'push, push, when you beat around the bush' line off 'Booglarize Ya'?). Okay, okay, I promised to stop.

In addition, songs like the stompy, piano-led 'Curiosity' are catchy beyond belief, and intentionally dumb 'throwaways' like 'Girls' ('I LOVE GIRRRLS! They're all over this world!') are hilarious. Throw in a few pompous ballads like the Jaggerish 'Angel' and 'Endless Sea', which are a bit more of an acquired taste - since they're less 'groovy' and not tremendously melodic, it takes a particular self-identification with Iggy to praise them - and you get yourself a pretty diverse album. Really diverse, really cool, and yet, really humble and really unnoticeable unless you pay it an ounce more attention than you'd thought would be required on first listen. That's what Mr Critic refused to do, and that's why New Values is often judged as a 'transitional' effort instead of a masterpiece.


SOLDIER ***1/2

Year Of Release: 1980

This one kinda follows in the same direction... not as effective, though. Still good. The Iggy Popster hasn't finished extolling his views on the surrounding world by any means, and he wants us to know it. Soldier is once again a collection of riff-raff ragged shaggy muggy tunes, more "diversity-oriented glam rock with an edge" than anything even remotely New Wave, and everything made interesting by the lyrics and Iggy's sharp delivery of said stuff. I mean, how can you condemn a record when it begins with Biggy screaming, in the most unpleasant tone he has ever had up to that date (and he's had a whole bunch of 'em), 'My mummy told me, if I was goody, that she would buy me a rubber dolly?'

'Loco Mosquito' opens the scene with Iggy in a particularly nasty mood: 'Please Mr Custer, I don't wanna go/And spend my night in a bar with some stupid dodo/I'm sick of hanging around with old transvestites/They stare at my rubbers/It makes me uptight'. And this considering the melody itself is some weird ska tune with bolting Cars-like synths and, for some unclear reason, distorted electric violins. 'Ambition' is more of a moody tango-like melody that could have easily suited Iggy's mentor (David Bowie, who for some reason declined to produce this record although he was going to originally), and it's also sung from a girl's perspective, no less. And 'Take Care Of Me' is a classic riff-based pop rocker. And that's just the first three songs.

Since diversity is the key, you're bound to encounter a few throwbacks to the old Stooges sound, like 'Get Up And Get Out', for instance. At least that gritty saxophone in the background is mighty reminiscent of the Stooges, and the overall dark menacing atmosphere. But again, that's just one moment. For the most part, the Igster is busy making serious statements. Like his anti-conservative rant in 'I'm A Conservative' - pretty sharp considering 1980 gave birth to Ronald Reagan's presidency. What would you think if you heard all these references to drinking, screwing crazy girls and making millions at that turning point in American history? Iggy Pop certainly doesn' take no fuckin' chances.

Or you could shift your attention to 'Dog Food' - whassup with that, is it a metaphor for the phoney social life in general or just a straightforward parody on current commercials? 'Dog food is my whole life/Dog food composes my wife'. Well, okay, you can take one glance at Iggy and kinda believe this - the guy sure never looked like his diet consisted of bacon and eggs. But that's all tied in, after all, isn't Iggy's entire image based on shock as the most artistic form of social protest? Before I start turning this into a discussion on liberalism and conservatism (ahem), though, let me just point out that Soldier has at least a few songs that are actually melodically strong and can get by on the force of chord sequences alone.

This is actually the biggest problem of the album: it just doesn't seem to have as many first rate melodies as New Values did. But you sure wouldn't know that if all the songs on here were like 'Knockin' 'Em Down', a sarcastic "celebration" of brute force and ignorance set to a classic punkish riff and a classic poppy vocal melody. And we all know Iggy really revels in that atmosphere. Take Ted Nugent, cut out some of his muscles, transmutate them into brains, stuff 'em into the head, and you got yourself Iggy Pop. Perhaps he cannot deliver the classic Nugent roar, but he can deliver the classic "Iggy sneer" - as on 'I Snub You', a song that is... well, it is just basically a song about hate. Have you ever hated anybody? You know - not just abstract hate, but a concentrated, massive hate towards one particular person? 'I Snub You' is easily the most forceful of any hate songs I've ever heard unless we're talking abstract "hate the establishment" or "hate everything" concepts. 'I snub you, and when I snub, I snub you finally, forever...'. That's one n-a-s-t-y ending to this wild album.

It is actually nowhere near as diverse as it is sometimes billed, but the arrangements have all those neatsy tricks like electric violins and different synth tones, and if only the hooks had been stronger, this would have been Iggy's second masterpiece a la New Values. The main problem, I guess, is the overall messy situation in which the album was recorded - with a whole bunch of producers and session musicians (including notorious names - like the original Sex Pistols bass player Glenn Matlock, who co-writes with Iggy a lot, and even ex-TC, er, ex-ex-tee-see, er, well, former XTC keyboardist Barry Andrews) stirring the brew and spoiling parts of it. But maybe there were other problems as well, I dunno. It's still a classy album from the Popster.


PARTY ***1/2

Year Of Release: 1981

Let this be a warning to you: when you meet an album called Party, better prepare for something that can NOT be qualified as a SAS (serious artistic statement, that is). That way, nerves will be saved, adequacy preserved, and we'll all have a good time.

Party sounds like complete and utter self-parody on the part-ee of Mr Iggy, but not in a bad way. Rumours have it that Iggy actually wanted a hit single or even a hit album, and so allowed himself to be just a little bit more generic and accessible on this album. But as the All-Music Guide correctly put it (look, there are bad and good sides to every Internet project in existence), Iggy just never knew how to truly sell out, unlike his chameleonic maestro Mr Davy Jones. And so Party remains more like a silly, but curious artefact guaranteed to cause a good laugh rather than something obnoxious in a bad Eighties way.

There's nothing particularly dark or depressing or angry about these songs, unless you perceive darkness, depression and anger squeezing out of every pore on Iggy's body so much that it can't help but permeate even the most "fun" of his creations. The way I see it, Party is clearly divided according to the LP principle: the first side is the 'party' itself, a set of five songs that seem to hold on to each other, and the second side is somewhat more disjointed with somewhat more individual compositions - none of which seem to pretend at the Igster's usual level of aggression either, though.

The first side just rolls along like a good old sloppy drunken boozy brawny brawl is supposed to roll along. Big bombastic production, rollicking saxes that are often way more audible than the guitars themselves, and all kinds of lyrics that could only have been written from the perspective of a sensitive party-goer who's had one too much. I mean, at least on two of the songs ('Rock'n'Roll Party' and 'Sincerity') Iggy's main lyrical concern seems to be about getting a drink ('uh-oh, what do I find? Rock'n'roll party - where is the wine?'), and the rest either deals with uncontrolled love urges ('I'm gonna squeeze you like a tomato' on 'Pleasure', or was that 'potato'? Or both? Yeah, probably both) or with drunken confessions of a superstar caught in the musical industry ('Eggs On Plate'). And it is all crowned with the musically brilliant 'Houston Is Hot Tonight', the only song on the first side which seems at least slightly elaborated - there's a great glammy guitar riff driving it tonight and a catchy vocal melody, while the party atmosphere is still preserved almost intact.

I do like that first side a lot, though - the sloppy drunken mood is simply wonderful, and when you come to think of it, few people could have made it any better than Iggy. Maybe Mick Jagger could capture something like that, but he was always way too preoccupied with truly selling out to allow himself to make a risky move like that. Great drunken music all the way through, who in the world but Iggy could do that?

The second side is a slightly - but only slightly - different affair, as it seems to rely a bit more on modern production, for one thing, and introduces somewhat, uhm, different concepts. It's introduced by 'Pumpin' For Jill', a monotonous, but extremely hypnotic, mid-tempo rocker with Iggy sounding in a strangely even, deep voice about how 'in the gas station where I work everyone treats me just like a jerk, and nobody offers me a tip, I'm gonna stay here, pumping Jill's hips'. Gotta love the distorted ringing guitars in the background, a very sharp and exciting contrast with the overall "sleepy" mood of the song. Then there's 'Happy Man', a conscious idiotic throwaway that can be best described as a cross between 'Obladi Oblada' and 'Crazy Country Hop', and really, that says it all. You either have a sense of humour and you take it, or you think "THIS is the man that wrote 'I Wanna Be Your Dog'?' and leave it. I happen to fall in the former category, although even I must admit that when Iggy uses his "degenerated voice" to croak out 'I'm her only blood, we do it down in the mud', this initiates a question.

Iggy's "mini-hit" 'Bang Bang' is quite rousing, but not particularly memorable to really deserve hit status; fortunately, being memorable is not really important for a record like that. I personally like 'Sea Of Love' much more, a strange ethereal love ballad with equal Bowie and doo-wop overtones that seems to have wandered onto this record almost by mistake; the melody is rather generic, but the production coupled with Iggy's strained high pitch is simply wonderful. And finally, the album ends with 'Time Won't Let Go', the album's most New Wave-inspired tune with Cars-like synthesizers and jerky bouncy guitars. But where do these saxes actually belong? More like on a TV commercial?

A goddamn goofy little record, but don't say you never expected anything like that from Iggy. In fact, don't say you ever expected to predict what Iggy's next record would sound like - maybe he's not as much of a chameleon as Bowie, but he sure learned a few things from the master. And really, the Iggster is much more easy to love when you don't have a rigid prescription for what Iggy Pop is like. Party may not fit at all into the "angry rambunctious social critic" scheme, but it totally fits into the "eccentric unpredictable GOOFMAN" scheme of things, and the album's only flaw is that occasionally Iggy's humour borders on totally flat juvenile stuff. But only occasionally.



Year Of Release: 1982

Mr Iggster must have completely gone off his whacker by this time. If Soldier was still a typical sneering sarcastic Iggy Pop album with modernistic overtones, and Party was Iggy's funny throwaway record, then Zombie Birdhouse is his attempt at absurdist mild avantgarde artistry, and personally I think he really fails on here. The album just makes no sense whatsoever, and serves a thoroughly unclear purpose.

Again, there's a serious change of musical direction. The breath of the Eighties is felt acutely, even if the album does boast a "no synthesizers used" sticker. Instead of that, Iggy takes the King Crimson technologies, that is, the "plug your guitars into whatever you can find" trick mainly. There's a lot of drum machines, too, and overall, I guess no previous Iggy album had yet 'benefited' so much from modern technologies. But apparently, Iggy thought that with modern technologies comes a more modern way of thinking - impressionistic to the core, where it doesn't matter much if you actually make sense or not. And few of these songs do; 'Run Like A Villain' is certainly one of those few, a great moody opener that, unfortunately, gives you a totally wrong first impression. The guitars cook up a storm, Iggy's vocals have never sounded more aggressive or sneering, and even if you hate that drum machine sound in the background, you still can't deny the brute force, nosiree, you can't. Too bad that brute force never appears again.

Instead, you get silly and not really catchy stuff like 'The Ballad Of Cookie McBride', a weird, but not all that interesting parody on country-western with a painfully exaggerated accent and painfully forced "hilarious" lyrics. At least on things like 'Happy Man' Iggy sounded like an idiot and that was the point; here, you can't really see if he intends sounding like an idiot or if we're supposed to take at least part of the song seriously. Boo. Stupid. The ballads are middle-of-the-road as well - if you figure out what's the best way to cook 'Ordinary Bummer', go ahead, it's all yours. I still don't see the appeal of that song. It lacks melody, it lacks arrangement, it lacks personality. In short, there's just way, way too much filler and mediocrity on this album for it to rank along any given Wagner masterpiece. I guess Iggy was just a bit too busy working out all those new and exciting guitar sounds to bother writing nice songs. Or coming up with a half-decent conception for the album, for that matter. It's a typical "I lost my way, help me please" kind of record, if you ask me.

I mean, what can you expect if the record actually ends in not one, but two embarrassingly dated sound collages? 'Watching The News' is supposedly Iggy's take on a 'Revolution #9' atmosphere; true to the title, the song consists of various news clippings, TV sounds and a bunch of dissonant Iggy wailing that drag on for over four minutes. I never liked 'Revolution #9' and I don't like this thing, but at least the Lennon/Yoko collage had some kind of novelty value, while 'Watching The News' exploits an idea that had already been run into the ground a million times before. And then it's immediately followed by 'Street Crazies', essentially just a bunch of similar drunken wailing over a monotonous beat and crazyass feedback noises. All done in a very raw and amateurish style. Not surprising, since sound collages were never really Iggy's forte. I guess apart from King Crimson, we'll have to count Eno & Byrne's My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts as a primary influence for these things, but not all influences are positive, you know.

Not that there's nothing good about the album. Like I said, 'Run Like A Villain' is a great introduction. There's also the painfully short 'Bulldozer', another track in the old Iggy style, a great distorted rocker which displays the Popster's fascination with the "bulldozer" image... listen to him gloating over all those lyrics ('bulldozer, like a giant clam, run that girl over...'), clearly having fun. Geez, Iggy, this is what makes you great: this dark, nihilistic, creepy mood, even if I have to agree this particular song verges on self-parody in places. Melodically, I also have a soft spot for 'The Horse Song' with its mysterious organ-like guitar riff and blatantly unoriginal folksy melody. And then there are cute moments and ideas to be found in a bunch of other songs (the creepy bassline in 'The Villagers', for instance, or the weird bounciness of 'Eat Or Be Eaten').

But one thing is for certain: Zombie Birdhouse is the first Iggy album since Kill City, that is, the first Iggy solo album ever, that I can't make myself enjoy from beginning to end. I mean, even when the guy used to be short on melodic ideas, he was still able to make up for it by pulling out his personal "negative charisma" and milking it for what it was worth. The vocals, the moods, the sneering, the sarcasm, the unparalleled bile... that was all great, and now it's replaced by these stupid sound collages and meek half-songs like 'Ordinary Bummer'. Too bad. At least the album title rules.


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