Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Iggy Pop

  • The Idiot [RCA Victor, 1977] A-
  • Lust for Life [RCA Victor, 1977] A-
  • TV Eye [RCA Victor, 1978] C+
  • New Values [Arista, 1979] B+
  • Soldier [Arista, 1980] B+
  • Party [Arista, 1981] C+
  • Zombie Birdhouse [Animal, 1982] B-
  • Choice Cuts [RCA Victor, 1984] A-
  • Blah-Blah-Blah [A&M, 1986] C+
  • Instinct [A&M, 1988] C+
  • Brick by Brick [Virgin, 1990] Dud
  • American Caesar [Virgin, 1993] Choice Cuts
  • Naughty Little Doggie [Virgin, 1996] Choice Cuts
  • Avenue B [Virgin, 1999] C
  • Beat Em Up [Virgin, 2001] **
  • Skull Ring [Virgin, 2003] Choice Cuts

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Idiot [RCA Victor, 1977]
The line on Iggy is that this comeback album with Bowie and friends proves his creative power has dissipated. I say bullshit. The Stooges recorded prophetic music, but only some of it was great: because Iggy's skill at working out his musical concept didn't match his energy and inspiration, the attempted dirges fell too flat and some of the rockers never blasted off as intended. Dissipated or not, the new record works as a record. By now, Iggy barbs his lyrics with an oldtimer's irony, which suits the reflective tone Bowie has imposed on the music just fine. In retrospect, it will appear that this was Iggy's only alternative to autodestruct. Not true, perhaps, but retrospect favors artifacts. As do I. A-

Lust for Life [RCA Victor, 1977]
If The Idiot exploits the (tranceprone) affinity for the slow rocker that Bowie evinced on Station to Station, this reestablishes the (apollonian) affinity for the dionysiac artist Bowie made so much of five years ago on Mott's All the Young Dudes. Like most rock and rollers, I prefer this to The Idiot because it's faster and more assertive--which means, among other things, that the nihilistic satire is counteracted by the forward motion of the music itself. A-

TV Eye [RCA Victor, 1978]
In the great tradition of Uncle Lou, here's a live quickie for you--four songs from the two recent RCA albums, plus a classic or two from each hard-to-find Elektra, plus the collectors' single "I Got a Right." You get to hear "Lust for Life" without the laff-a-line chorus. "Funtime" with anti-Semitic flourishes, and lots of irrelevant bombast and concert-hall echo. Much of it works anyway, but that doesn't mean I can't dock it a notch for pissing me off. C+

New Values [Arista, 1979]
This album provides what it advertises only to those who consider Iggy a font of natural wisdom--there are such people, you know. But it does get at least partway over on the strength of a first side that has the casual, hard-assed, funny feel of a good blues session--except that it rocks harder, which ain't bad. B+

Soldier [Arista, 1980]
This is sheer product--hard uptempo sessions with the pickup band that featured Glen Matlock and Ivan Kral. But the formula serves him well; he can apparently generate satirical energy over a clean rock bottom at will. Play this a few times and in two years you'll still recall five songs when you put it on again: "Dog Food," "I Snub You," "Loco Mosquito," "I'm a Conservative," "Play it Safe." And all the others will sound pretty good. B+

Party [Arista, 1981]
Although the music's "tight," and sometimes kinda hip rhythmically too, I guarantee it took him longer to get the Uptown Horns on the telephone than to write these lyrics. Iggy: "Ivan, what rhymes with `touches my feet'?" Ivan: "How about something with `creep'--about how you're not a creep, you know?" "But Ivan, I am a creep." "No one will ever know." C+

Zombie Birdhouse [Animal, 1982]
Granted artistic freedom by idealist entrepreneur Chris Stein after three albums of hard-rock self-formulization for bad old Clive Davis, the Ig comes up with the most experimental record of his career. Which sucks. Don't blame music-meister Rob duPrey, whose settings maintain stylistic continuity yet generate a certain theoretical interest of their own. Blame the slogans, social theory, in-jokes, bad poetry, and vocal dramaturgy he had to work with. B-

Choice Cuts [RCA Victor, 1984]
Give or take some song-shuffling and a minor substitution, side one of this strange piece of product comprises side one of Ig's 1977 Bowie-produced The Idiot and side two comprises side one of Ig's 1977 Bowie-produced Lust for Life. Makes you think Bowie knew what he was doing--"Jimmy, please, what do you say we put the, ah, less accessible things on the B?" Though I would have subbed with "Success," that's a quibble on such a consistent album, and though I find that the less accessible things retain their narrow interest, I admit that this is the first time in the '80s it's occurred to me to listen to them. Obviously, no one who owns the originals needs this record, but dollarwise students of that long-ago time should be grateful. Too bad they'll never hear "Dum Dum Boys." A-

Blah-Blah-Blah [A&M, 1986]
You could point out that The Idiot and Lust for Life were cut with the Bowie of Low and "Heroes" while Blah-Blah-Blah was cut with the Bowie of Let's Dance and "Dancing in the Streets." Or you could surmise that copping to conscience did even less for Ig than finding true love did for Chrissie Hynde. C+

Instinct [A&M, 1988]
Twixt the thematic if hardly definitive "Cold Metal" and the humorous if hardly hilarious "Squarehead," Mr. Big Dick makes like the gargoyle he is, crooning in his ghastly Vaughan Monroe baritone when he isn't asserting his tenuous connection with HM, which whatever its offenses is at least popular, and punk, which whatever its offenses is at least arty. If Bowie can't save him and Laswell can't save him, maybe he gone. C+

Brick by Brick [Virgin, 1990] Dud

American Caesar [Virgin, 1993]
"Louie Louie" Choice Cuts

Naughty Little Doggie [Virgin, 1996]
"I Wanna Live"; "Pussy Walk" Choice Cuts

Avenue B [Virgin, 1999]
Unless "A masterpiece without a frame" and "I want to fuck her on the floor/Among my books of ancient lore" are jokes no one gets, the sole compliment one can pay this confessional poetry by a fiftysomething cocksman who Cannot Love is that at least he's willing to look like a fool. But that's been his shtick since he was bleeding himself with broken Skippy jars. Right, Ig, you're "corrupt"--no news there. Unfortunately, blaming "the paranoia of the age" and bitching "I gave em every part of me" is also corrupt. Plus one more thing: Until you learn to sing a little better, maybe you'd better say goodbye to Medeski Martin and Wood and put in a call to the Sales brothers. C

Beat Em Up [Virgin, 2001]
fine head of dudgeon for such an old guy ("It's All Shit," "V.I.P.") **

Skull Ring [Virgin, 2003]
"Little Electric Chair" Choice Cuts