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The Iggy Popathon

So, with my wife out of town I finally had the opportunity to listen to all the music she doesn’t like.  First on the list:  Iggy Pop.  I busted out all the Iggy Pop albums I have, and then listened to one more that I streamed for a total of thirteen— which just scratches the surface of The Godfather of Punk’s 50+ years of output.  At one point, I told my wife that what I was listening to she wouldn’t listen to even if, for some reason, she agreed to listen to Iggy Pop.

Iggy Pop is, of course, almost indelibly linked to David Bowie.  Bowie had involvement as a producer, co-writer, backup singer or otherwise in the albums, “Raw Power;” “The Idiot;” “Lust for Life;” and “Blah-Blah-Blah.”  Bowie would cover Iggy on “Let’s Dance;” “Tonight;” and “Never Let Me Down.”  Their relationship was a fictionalized in the movie, “Velvet Goldmine.” 

But Iggy stands up well on his own.  Though some of his albums take considerable detours from the type of garage-band proto-punk style he established in the late 1960s, he never stayed too far away from what sounds like an Iggy Pop album.  Some of the more recent albums, “Beat ‘Em Up (1999);” “Skull Ring” (2003); and the Stooges’ “The Weirdness” (2007) pretty much sound like what you might have thought an Iggy Pop album would sound like in 1970…except you probably wouldn’t think the hard-living Pop would still be alive. 

At this point I should note that some of these albums are by Iggy-fronted band, The Stooges.  “Fun House” (1970) is probably their most intense, hardest rocking album.  “Raw Power” (1973) is probably their most iconic.  “The Weirdness” (2007) has a little more generic quality to it, but still sounds like a Stooges album.

Usually loud, usually intense, usually fast, Iggy manages to also almost always remain melodic.  I don’t think of “American Caesar” (1993); “Beat ‘Em Up” and “Skull Ring” as among Iggy’s better known albums, but they are instantly listenable.  (As a side note, the cover of “American Caesar” has a parental warning— “Warning: This is an Iggy Pop Album”).

“The Idiot” and “Lust for Life” (both from 1977) are the Iggy albums with the heaviest Bowie presence, and the only two on which Bowie’s voice is clearly audible (as a backing singer).  They are solidly among Iggy’s best, with well known songs such as, “China Girl” and “The Passenger.”  I think of them as companions to Bowie’s, “Low” and “Heroes.”  But stylistically, these two are very different than most of the rest of the catalogue.  

What else was on my list? There’s the idiosyncratic “Avenue B” (1999), which is acoustic and probably the least-Iggy Pop sounding Iggy Pop album, “Post Pop Depression” (2016) which received positive reviews when it came out a few years ago, but is not terribly distinct, and then a best-of called, “Nude and Rude” as well as an oddball collection called, “The Heritage Collection.”  That last one is notable for two reasons— it has Iggy’s version of the song, “Bang Bang,” which Bowie performs on “Never Let Me Down,” and also, whoever wrote the liner notes knows nothing about Iggy Pop.  There’s a throwaway song on the album called, “I’m Bored,” which contains the line, “I’m the chairman of the board.”  The liner notes refers to Iggy as “The Chairman of the Board.”  That’s not Iggy— that’s Frank Sinatra.

Anyway, the overall impact of listing to thirteen Iggy Pop albums is … to want to listen to more…and, fortunately, there is more.  In fact, Iggy has a new album, “Free,” which I look forward to downloading.  There will never be another genuinely new Bowie album, but hopefully there’s still more to come from Iggy Pop. 

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