The brand of big, bombastic, fully produced glam-rock to which Iggy Pop seems preternaturally attracted sort of requires an introduction. In interviews, Ig has been effusively derogative of “The ’60s” (in one interview positing one of his main accomplishments as “I helped kill of the sixties”), and has also taken it upon him to describe David Crosby’s music as “so loathsome.”
Whatever happened to him to stoke in him this level of hippie rancor, the end result, or the surrogate, if you will, certainly seems questionable at best — a swarthy, hilariously self-indulgent blueprint of mainstream rock, in the case of EVERY LOSER (ironically titled considering its anti-underdog sonic DNA) even compiled by an old Justin Beiber and Miley Cyrus producer Andrew Watt.
It’s appropriate, too, that Watt has a track record of working with Morrissey as well, because his albums too are misnomers in that they’re credited to a “musician” who doesn’t play a single instrument on the album. This is pop music, in other words, done by a pop musician, dressed up in loud guitar somewhere approximating something between Loudermilk and Nine Inch Nails without the programming.
But Ig seems to rest on this bizarrely clear, “professional” vocal style, that never even seemed to surface in his most vital solo work, like “Lust for Life” and “Nightclubbing” (the latter of which finds Ig employing more of a rap technique on vocals, which worked infinitely better), let alone in his stuff with The Stooges, his initial arc into musical stardom. His transition from raspy back-porch cur to measured choir singer can best be described as awkward and unexplainable and worst as an almost psychotic display of career-homicide. I can’t think of a single person to whom this music would appeal, in other words — for pop fans, it’s a clumsy old man attempting unfortunately at social commentary, and for rock fans, well, there’s no jamming. And yes, I see that superstar lineup of musicians on this album — that only pi**es me off even more and smacks all the more of privilege and resting on laurels.
Tracks one and two, anyway, “Frenzy” and “Strung out Johnny,” are at least listenable radio rock, I suppose — they should get some warranted play on, say, Chicago’s WXRT, and college stations. And taken in just a couple of times, they’ll be amusing enough, with their profanity and references to heroin. But around listen six or so, the audience is bound to ask, what IS this? And the answer is that, this guy’s got superstar status, hence explaining the four-star reviews from pretty much every journal under the sun.
But it’s exactly what’s infusing this phenomenon of preferential treatment and high-profile idolatry that’s distracting from this music actually getting anywhere. Iggy Pop, that is, even less so than Morrissey, has ever been a storyteller. He’s angular, nihilistic, even narcissistic (“Last year I was 21 / I didn’t have a lot of fun”). Actually, on “New Atlantis,” it kind of SOUNDS like he’s trying to sing a Morrissey song — the narrative takes a sympathetic lens to this city that’s losing ground against the sea level. But the music itself resorts to that sort of midtempo dad-rock to which Morrissey typically lays claim to, to the point where you just know it’s all a readymade ploy and not a bona fide artistic muse. And I’m sorry, but for how old Iggy Pop is these days, he still doesn’t know how to play a musical instrument? That’s just laziness. On the faux-energetic “Neo Punk” Ig seems to be taking exception to new punks: well, as fake as they may be, I don’t think the path back to vanguard vitality is hacking their drum beats and polluting the mix with cutesy piano, all in a professional, Grammy-ready studio. EVERY LOSER continues to document Ig’s strange masquerade as a session singer, when his best days were as a street poet whose style refreshingly superseded, or maybe fell short of, the pretense of “professional” vocals.
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