Lust to Dust

Iggy Pop
Avenue B (Island Records)

Face the facts: Iggy Pop hasn't been the same since he recorded for Arista in the early 1980s, when he began confusing punk rock with hard rock and found neither wanted him anymore. Turns out he was the idiot after all, too dumb to give it up when he discovered the times had changed and, too bad and too sad, so had he. Now, all we're left with is this record, on which an old man (he's 50 now, for chrissakes) squares off against his mortality and loses the fight before the first-round bell rings. Hasn't been an ex-punker's record this moribund on arrival since his old pal Lou Reed sold Magic and Loss in the cutout bins. Or since Ig's own Instinct in 1988, and a more inappropriately titled record there hasn't been since.

Don't know how to take Avenue B's opener "No Shit" -- as profound revelation or self-serious laffer. Over some Twin Peaks strings, the former rant-and-raver ponders his middle-age like some dude on his death bed. "It was in the winter of my 50th year when it hit me," Iggy croaks, as though reading from a dusty diary. "I was really alone, but there wasn't a hell of a lot of time left. Every laugh and touch that I could get became more important. Strangely, I became more bookish, and my home and study meant more to me as I considered the circumstances of my death. I wanted to find a balance between joy and dignity on my way out. Above all, I didn't want to take any more shit, not from anybody." Pretentious and ponderous -- say farewell to relevance, old friend.

Next up: "Nazi Girlfriend," whom Iggy wants to "fuck...on the floor among my books of ancient lore." She can't cook, she's elegant, she wears two crosses "tangled up," and she ain't dumb -- just a Nazi girl who stole his heart and his talent. And then: "Avenue B," rendered as lounge-pop paean to Pop's old stomping grounds in NYC -- lotsa organ and acoustic guitar ramblings set to a shuffle-skuffle beat. "Rappers standing on the corner," Ig begins and ends, because damned if I can make it 53 seconds into this dreary neighborhood. Afraid of getting mugged by formerly interesting musicians looking for spare change and stale ideas.

Later on: "Afraid to Get Close," a 59-second strings-and-things interlude in which Ig admits he's afraid to get close to people and afraid not to, followed by "She Called Me Daddy" ("I didn't touch her in bed"). Lord, there's nothing in this world worse than an aging punk trying to make amends, come to grips, confess in public; just because it's important to you doesn't mean anyone else gives a shit. Closest thing to a "rock" song: "Shakin' All Over." Fuck, it barely twitches.

 
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