Sometimes you can judge a book, or a CD, by its cover. This is the case with Iggy Pop’s new one, “adorned” with a close-up of the bald-faced, thin-lipped Igg-ster, disconcertingly direct in his gaze, surprisingly clear-eyed and looking like the farmer in Grant Wood’s “American Gothic”-only with long, stringy split ends and accompanied by a “Parental Advisory: Explicit Content” label rather than a shifty-eyed missus. Speaking of which, Iggy’s marriage has also come to a split end, and that, along with his 50th birthday three years ago, seems to have led to this wintry meditation of an album.
While former cohort/producer David Bowie is busy recasting himself as an upbeat rock ‘n’ roller, Iggy gets more serious and poetic, facing his own mortality, failings, frailties and mixed feelings about demon rock ‘n’ roll. But then Iggy always wanted more-more rawness, and more respect, simultaneously. In the opening spoken-word passage, he talks about finding solace in books and wanting to find “a balance between joy and dignity on my way out. Above all, I didn’t want to take any more shit. From anybody.” Strung together with diary-like spoken-word pieces are stripped-down songs such as the rhythmic and crunchy “Corruption,” the anxiously rockabilly “Shakin’ All over,” the self-important “Nazi Girlfriend,” an almost-breezy “Avenue B” (featuring Medeski, Martin and Wood) and a tender “Miss Argentina.” Iggy flirts with bad taste throughout, but producer Don Was keeps the tone uniformly restrained, warm and introspective. Recent converts looking for the fancy-free pop of “Lust For Life” will be disappointed by most of Avenue B, but those who want to get intimate with Ig can party with the original punker-on his terms.
Producer: Don Was. Engineer: Mark Howard. Additional recording and mixing: Ray Martin, Raeann Zschokke, Hal Cragin, Andrew Scheps, Rik Pekkonen, Lance Pierre. Studios: 262 Mott Street (NYC), Teatro (oxnard, CA), The Theatre (NYC), ocean Way No. 3 (Hollywood, CA) and The Record Plant (Hollywood, CA) as well as Shacklyn Studios, Studio 12A and Punker Pad West. Mastering: Stephen Marcussen.