Sunday, December 20, 2009

Record of the Moment: Iggy Pop - Lust for Life

Somehow, it is hard to imagine that the cheeky young fellow who appears on this record cover to be the same gaunt-faced man who gave the death stare on the cover of Raw Power. It doesn't seem to add up. Here, the dude is happy. Look at that smile. The man on the cover of Raw Power looks like he wants to tear your throat out and eat it in front of your children. And just look at the title of each record: Lust for Life against Raw Power. One implies positivity, the other implies negativity.

But that's where Iggy Pop ended up. After the royal collapse of the Stooges, and a stint in the hospital, Iggy Pop was back in business. He'd cleaned up, essentially (though this probably isn't totally true). But the glaring difference between the cover of the last Stooges and the cover for this record sort of perpetuates that myth. And in some sense, the music is a little lighter. By no means does this mean Iggy Pop went "lite" on the populace. Nope. I don't think Iggy Pop would be caught dead going "lite," because that is simply the way Iggy Pop is.

Compared to the Idiot, the previous release, Lust for Life is a return to form for Iggy Pop. Personally, in my historical pursuits as a rock scholar, I consider the Idiot to be a sort of half-Bowie, half-Pop record. It's obviously still Iggy. But the music is obviously a predecessor to Bowie's groundbreaker, Low. Therefore, the Idiot is sort of the lost brother to Bowie's trilogy (I'd argue that the Idiot should be included in the "trilogy"; thus expanding the concept into a "quadrilogy"). Some people disown the Idiot for its Bowie-ness. I refuse to do so, personally. Regardless, Lust for Life showed that Pop still not only had his own lyrical edge, but his edge as a musician.

The drums that kick off the record instantly blow open your mind. It's big, it's huge, and instantly memorable (and apparently easily sullied and stained: I'm looking at you, Jet). And then it kicks into gear. The younger and angrier Iggy Pop is largely missing; here instead is an older, wiser Iggy Pop, who knows better now that he's escaped his vices. But of course, he still acknowledges their existence (see: "Some Weird Sin"), because who couldn't? Your vices haunt you forever. Iggy captures it perfectly; after all, of all the people who are familiar with self-destruction, Iggy Pop pretty much tops the list.

But this Iggy Pop is largely over that hill and out of that Hell, and he knows it. The way "Success" gleefully careens along, almost teetering on the edge of collapse but always's infectious. "The Passenger" is similarly enchanting, but not because it's necessarily a "happy" track; it's an Iggy Pop seemingly at peace. The barroom rock of "Turn Blue" is indicative of Iggy's still-present edge, both morbid and scathing in its attacks, but almost sarcastic in its musings. The track is a reference to Iggy Pop's previous struggles with drugs, as easily discerned, but for all anyone knows the implications are much wider.

While the music itself is nowhere near as ear-bleed-inducing as Raw Power is (which was intentional), that is not to say that Lust for Life is toothless. Tracks such as "Neighborhood Threat" prowl along menacingly, with Iggy Pop's voice of "doom," so to speak, going from its tremble-causing baritone to shattering screams and yelps in a heartbeat...all constantly affecting, if sometimes slightly grating (or very grating, depending on your disposition towards the singing abilities of Iggy Pop). The funk-tinged (most Bowie-like) romp, "Fall in Love with Me" stomps along in a marvelous fashion, with Iggy half-crooning the title line over a contagious groove that is hard to deny.

I could speak at length about every track, but I will stop here. Needless to say, Lust for Life is essential. Standing alone, the record is perfect. Its influence is widespread. Lust for Life is a perfect example of proto-punk. Perhaps not as "punk" as what is typically evinced (see: Sex Pistols and early Clash) but indicative of the spirit of punk...ever-restless. Not necessarily experimental or groundbreaking, but essentially free-spirited at its core.

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