Thursday, July 01, 2010

album of the day: Lust for Life

I had a friend in Pittsburgh whose fondest fangirl memory was of Iggy Pop spitting on her from the stage. I don't remember if it was deliberate, let alone aimed, but she felt it was special.

In a weird way, that kind of sums up Iggy Pop's appeal. I don't mean to suggest that Iggy Pop's punky music is just for body-fluid/humiliation fetishists, though I imagine that helps. I do mean that at his best, Iggy's appeal is sensually, psychically, and musically lewd and lascivious. Just about everything named, described, or alluded to on this 1977 album should get you arrested.

Every so often, this is just the thing I need to hear. I played this a ton, several years ago, when I was going through a lot of punk, in part as a cleansing procedure. I realize that wallowing in filth like "Lust for Life" ("Here comes Johnny Yen again/with the liquor and drugs/and the flesh machine...") or "Sixteen," or measuring one's perversity against "Some Weird Sin" ("... the sight of it all/makes me sad and ill/that's when I want/some weird sin...") or even "Fall In Love With Me" seems an odd way to purify one's soul. But for some of us, it works.

Iggy Pop spanned musical generations. With the Stooges, he embodied the culture of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll with reckless self-destructive abandon, often leaving the stage after a show bloodied and lacerated. The punk scene took a lot of their cues from this. But by '77, punk had started to domesticate, and this album, co-written with David Bowie, points again to the future of harder-edged rock. I'd almost go so far as to call this one of the first post-punk records.

Every song, but I think most effectively the title track, has inescapable hooks and infectious rhythm - like good punk should. But on others, that's met with cool, angular, smooth Bowie-esque melody: on "Tonight" there's a clear line between an opening screeching punk vocal and Iggy's David Bowie impression throughout the rest of the tune. (It sounds like a David Bowie song, too - which it is.) On "Tonight" the effect is disconcerting, but otherwise, you'll hear that now-familiar cooled-down punky stuff that have made so much money for Green Day.

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