Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Iggy Pop & James Williamson [extended]

  • The Stooges [Elektra, 1969] B+
  • Fun House [Elektra, 1970] A-
  • Raw Power [Columbia, 1973] B+
  • Metallic K.O. [Import, 1976] C+
  • The Idiot [RCA Victor, 1977] A-
  • Lust for Life [RCA Victor, 1977] A-
  • Kill City [Bomp, 1978] B
  • 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
  • Open Up and Bleed! [Bomp!, 1996] C+
  • Naughty Little Doggie [Virgin, 1996] Choice Cuts
  • Raw Power [Columbia/Legacy, 1997] A-
  • Avenue B [Virgin, 1999] C
  • Beat Em Up [Virgin, 2001] **
  • Skull Ring [Virgin, 2003] Choice Cuts
  • The Weirdness [Virgin, 2007] Choice Cuts
  • Ready to Die [Fat Possum, 2013] **

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Stooges: The Stooges [Elektra, 1969]
Stupid-rock at its best--the side of the Velvet Underground that never developed (John Cale produced). B+

The Stooges: Fun House [Elektra, 1970]
Now I regret all the times I've used words like "power" and "energy" to describe rock and roll, because this is what such rhetoric should have been saved for. Shall I compare it to an atom bomb? a wrecker's ball? a hydroelectric plant? Language wasn't designed for the job. Yet despite its sonic impact I find that the primary appeal of the music isn't physical--I have to be in a certain mood of desperate abandon before it reaches my body. It always interests me intellectually, though--with its repetiveness beyond the call of incompetence and its solitary new-thing saxophone, this is genuinely "avant-garde" rock. The proof is the old avant-garde fallacy of "L.A. Blues"--trying to make art about chaos by reproducing same. A-

Iggy and the Stooges: Raw Power [Columbia, 1973]
In which David Bowie remembers "the world's forgotten boy" long enough to sponsor an album--and mixes it down till it's thin as an epicure's wrist. The side-openers, "Search and Destroy" and "Raw Power," voice the Iggy Pop ethos more insanely (and aggressively) than "I Wanna Be Your Dog." But despite James Williamson's guitar, the rest disperses in their wake. B+

Iggy and the Stooges: Metallic K.O. [Import, 1976]
Ignorami consider this dim live tape Prime Ig cos "you can actually hear the bottles flying." Also cos Ig utters the words "cunt, pricks, buttfuckers" (trying to run this world sez Ig, who'd never dream of such a thing himself). And let us not forget "Hebrew" (rhymes with "Rich Bitch"). Great "documentary" but sometimes I really dig Joni Mitchell. C+

Iggy Pop: 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-

Iggy Pop: 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-

Kill City [Bomp, 1978]
Unlike the Stooges' albums, this collection of doctored tapes from 1975 is never brought to a halt by some luded-out threnody. But it doesn't offer any necessities of life, either--no "I Wanna Be Your Dog" or "Search and Destroy," not even a "Gimme Some Skin" or "Here Comes Success" or "China Girl." And it sounds sludgy. B

Iggy Pop: 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+

Iggy Pop: 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+

Iggy Pop: 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+

Iggy Pop: 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+

Iggy Pop: 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-

Iggy Pop: 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-

Iggy Pop: 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+

Iggy Pop: 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+

Iggy Pop: Brick by Brick [Virgin, 1990] Dud

Iggy Pop: American Caesar [Virgin, 1993]
"Louie Louie" Choice Cuts

Iggy and the Stooges: Open Up and Bleed! [Bomp!, 1996]
Distinguishable from competing relics of the Church of Iggy by the oddly qualified boast "The Great Lost Stooges Album?" (they do enjoy their punctuation over at Bomp!!), this one recycles the Raw Power follow-ups of the Rubber Legs EP, with dimmer sound than the ruinous underbassing Bowie inflicted on that piece of classic-openers-plus-filler, and also dimmer songs--"Cock in My Pocket" might make somebody a second encore, "Rubber Legs" is a worthier title cut than "Open Up and Bleed," and the rest belonged on the cutting room floor. Plus, wouldn't you know, equally dim live tapes designed to prove yet again that they did actually vamp longer than Hawkwind and Grinderswitch put together--anything rather than get down to business. Really, folks. He was seminal. He was damn good. He's not bad to this day. He wrote more anthems than Richard Berry himself. But anyone who thinks he's the spirit of the music has been taken in by the doomed theory that rock and roll is transgressive by definition. Like any living artform only more so, it encompasses transgression for sure. But it wouldn't be alive if it didn't also encompass a whole lot else. C+

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

Iggy and the Stooges: Raw Power [Columbia/Legacy, 1997]
Strict constructionists and lo-fi snobs charge indignantly that by remixing his own album Iggy has made a mockery of history and done irreparable damage to a priceless work of art. This is really stupid. Before it was anointed the Platonic idea of rock and roll by desperate young men who didn't have much else to choose from, first-generation Iggyphiles charged just as indignantly that David Bowie had mixed the real thing way too thin--as Iggy observes, this classic-by-comparison always sounded "weedy" (although, not to insult a valued colleague, "David's" version was also "very creative"). So the pumped bass and vocals Iggy has uncovered on the original tapes, which were supposed to coexist with their high-end screech to begin with, are a quantum improvement. Plus you can finally hear the celeste on "Penetration"--sounds great! Only the slow ones, which like all of Iggy's slow ones are not as good as his fast ones, stand between a statement of principle and a priceless work of art. A-

Iggy Pop: 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

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

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

The Stooges: The Weirdness [Virgin, 2007]
"Free & Freaky" Choice Cuts

Iggy and the Stooges: Ready to Die [Fat Possum, 2013]
His first album worth noticing in longer than one need determine proves that even facing death with his best buds he'll rely on the shtick that has served him so profitably for so long ("Job," "Dirty Deal") **