Beat 'Em Up - Iggy Pop (Virgin)
Cranberry-swilling Ken Shimamoto and I were only discussing this in the Bar the other day: We both mark Iggy harder than those so-called legends who present with a far less memorable back catalogue.
The name "Stooges" looms large and loud in any I-94 Bar denizen's musical knapsack. Ergo, anything the Pop has done since is, by comparison, Poop. Ken is taken to saying that Iggy's last good solo record was "New Values" - argue to the contrary if you like, but the point is that the high bar is set at Mt Everest levels. That being the case, how can the latest offering be objectively assessed?
The first thing that needs to be said is that this is one ugly, loud mother of a disc. Forget the emo, reflective noodlings of "Avenue B" or the session-players-by-numbers contrived pap of "Brick by Brick". This is raucous, metallic crunch, reminiscent of the Ig's oft-stated childhood memories of Detroit production lines, and it's heavy enough to make the proto-metal of "American Ceasar" and "Naughty Little Doggie" pale. It's no coincidence that the bass player on this album used to play for Body Count - some of the gang vocal choruses and metal-funk rhythms stamp on the same street corner as Rage Against the Machine and any number of similar groups.
What it ain't - and we should get this out of the way now - is the Stooges. The Stooges simply WERE, a product of misspent youth and the world's original slackers, in every sense of the word. It's a step more in the direction of primal, but "Beat 'Em Up" will never recapture what was, even with the obvious marketing efforts inferring as much (Virgin billing this in ads as a return to form by the "Godfather of Punk" is just SO obvious).
Back to the task at hand, and the point is that any disc worth its salt can't be objectively assessed. Good music should move you, and there are a few outstanding cuts on this disc that do. I can do without "Howl" (all those wolf noises just don't cut the mustard) and "Football" is a patently dumb lyric when applied to the Iggster (who, as leathery as he looks, simply isn't an emotional pigskin), but "Go For the Throat" does so in delicious style (Lyric of the week: "Go for the throat/I'm fucked up/I'm so fucked up"). Likewise "The Jerk" (tempting as it is to class it as autobiographical) or the rant of "Mask".
Titles like "It's All Shit" and "Death is Certain" give a fair indication of where this is coming from - Iggy is fucking ANGRY and your speakers are going to feel the consequences ('cos it's mixed and mastered wonderfully loud). The old bloke has done a fine job of producing "Beat 'em Up", but when the smoke's all cleared you have to ask if all the racket was worth it. Ultimately, as fine a return to form this is, it probably won't be on high rotation at the Bar in six month's time.
As good as some of the playing is (and Ig's longtime guitar foil, Whitey Kirst, does way better here than on some past efforts, dropping the metal pretensions) but the overall anger is all too forced..