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Monday, September 26, 2011

Iggy Pop, "Lust for Life"

Iggy Pop
"Lust for Life"
RCA (1977)

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die

The old adage "don't judge a book by its cover" is especially relevant when reviewing the most recommended albums of all time. As you may have noticed, not many of the records we've looked at so far have very impressive album artwork, but feature music good enough that it doesn't matter. This will be one of the few albums where I do judge the album from its cover.

The simple mugshot of a grinning, boyish Iggy Pop present on "Lust for Life" is a high point in the history of slipcases. It is simultaneously a paradox and an honest statement. It is befuddling to those familiar with the cover of The Stooges "Raw Power," which features a taut, almost vampiric Pop glaring out into an audience. The "new" and "happy" Pop is disarming. However, the face tells a true tale of a man who had recently emerged from his roughest point: rehab for his many addictions plus mental help as well (some found his therapy regrettable, as from that point on, Pop was less likely to roll around in glass on stage). This album serves as a happy medium between the two stories.

"Lust for Life" was the second album Pop released in 1977, following his equally acclaimed "The Idiot." The latter, although still a quality recording, was a removal from the Stooges-era Pop. Many attribute the experimental nature to David Bowie, who produced both albums (as well as singing harmonies and playing piano). "Lust" let Pop slip back into rock-mode.

The best tracks on the album (and, probably the ones you've heard already) are the ones that demonstrate that Pop has learned from his old bad habits, but not forgotten them in the least. The cynicism that made him the "godfather of punk" is present, and thinly veiled by inspiring mottos. "Lust for Life" is an honest statement valuing his existence, while recalling heroin use and alcohol abuse at the same time. "Success" (interestingly the only single released from the album) takes a sarcastic look at fame and money, in a similar nature to Joe Walsh's "Life's Been Good."

One track in particular takes a less-humorous look at his past: the haunting "The Passenger." The song follows a relaxed reggae riff, while Pop describes the sometimes rough ride that is life. The following track, "Tonight" continues the somber reggae theme. Pop also employs a pop approach to blues-style rock, a la The Rolling Stones, on tracks like "Fall in Love With Me," with its resonant riff. He even emulates Jagger's stuttering vocal technique on "Success."

One genre that is almost completely absent is punk. It's appropriate. Pop and The Stooges laid the foundation for the movement earlier in the decade. When "Lust" was released in 1977, The Ramones and The Sex Pistols had released their debuts, and the albums would be hailed as the opening of the punk floodgates. Pop, who put some of the first cracks in the dam, had moved onto other frontiers by then.

INTERESTING FACT: "Lust for Life" is Pop's most commercially successful album, in the sense that the music is frequently used commercially. The title track serves as the opening "theme" to Jim Rome's ESPN radio show, and was also featured in a Royal Caribbean TV commercial campaign (interesting use of a song that refers to taking heroin in the ear for a family company). "The Passenger" riff serves as the theme for Anderson Cooper's "Anderson 360" and is featured in a recent Captain Morgan rum commercial.

"Lust for Life"

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