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Iggy Pop
Avenue B
(Virgin America)

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He plays a decent round of golf these days, but there's part of Iggy Pop's heart that is forever putrid. The self-mocking manner and the wolfman smirk have allowed him to appear harmless - the Jack Nicholson of rock. But 'Avenue B' dispenses with many of the old ploys and lays a different character before us.

The precedents for this record would be Lou Reed's 'Magic And Loss', Nick Cave's 'The Boatman's Call', and before that, Sinatra's 'Only The Lonely'. It's about a guy singing his September songs, feeling the pinch of mortality, losing girls and sundry pals while feeling sorely jaded.

So, in 'Motorcycles', Iggy doesn't even get a look in with the fabulously attractive subject. She's brushing him off, causing the singer to muse: "She's a motorcycle that I can't ride/ She's a precious jewel that I can't buy", as his spirits plummet and he vows to give up on the romance business.

Yet on 'Long Distance', he's dialling up a lover half his age, realising that he's only trying to erase the hurt of a previous rejection. As with many of the songs, the tone is non-judgmental. It's like hearing a confession from the psychiatrist's couch, raw, rambling and unpretty.

That's certainly the gist of 'Corruption' and 'She Called Me Daddy'. The latter song plots a break-up with awful, forensic style. "I was always ashamed because she read Cosmopolitan", Iggy notes, as his subject is indexed and catalogued, no longer considered a living issue.

'Nazi Girlfriend' is relayed in a dispassionate manner: thoughts from a guy that can't even excite himself with this nasty stuff. By the end of the LP, you're feeling that no human can sustain all this scummy outpouring and sure enough, he delivers 'Facade', which reaches out for some kind of atonement. You hope.

Appropriately, the musical settings are mainly bare. Even when he tackles the gut-bucket classic 'Shakin' All Over', Iggy makes the affair sound wretched and unwanted, a sure cousin to Primal Scream's 'Vanishing Point'.

If 'Avenue B' was a book, it might be something by Henry James. If it was a film set, it would be in Venice. At night. With Dirk Bogarde in the lead role as the super-creepy seducer. As it stands, it's a remarkable piece of rock'n'roll from someone who admits, "I can piss on a grave while welcoming guests."

It's hardly the record you expected him to make, but then that's no problem when the art is so overpowering. Like an expensive cheese, Iggy's getting more pungent over the years.


Stuart Bailie

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