Home Read Classic Album Review: Iggy Pop | Beat Em Up

Classic Album Review: Iggy Pop | Beat Em Up

The Ig makes a return to the raw power & coiled anger of his nihilistic glory days.

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This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

 


Looks like Iggy’s over his little midlife crisis.

After three decades as the self-styled “streetwalking cheetah with a heart full of napalm,” Iggy Pop finally seemed to be settling down on his last album, 1999’s Avenue B. A mature, introspective set of late-night ballads, it found the former James Osterberg re-examining his life and priorities through the darkened prism of advancing age and eternal loneliness.

And what did he learn? Well, apparently, that he’s way too old to start growing up. So like lotsa guys his age, the 54-year-old punk is embarking on his second childhood. Thing is, when the Ig does something, he goes all the way. His new CD Beat Em Up isn’t just a rockier Avenue B, or the kind of nostalgically safe affair critics like to call “a return to form.” No, this sucker is a full-blown regression to the raw power and coiled, seething anger of his nihilistic glory days. Iggy is on a search-and-destroy mission to reclaim his punk-rock crown from the nu-metal and rap-rock pretenders — and he’s armed with the rawest, raunchiest, heaviest, snottiest, loudest, grittiest disc he’s made in decades.

And the simplest. This trip is definitely a no-frills flight. There’s no big-name producer, no fancy-pants guest stars, no synthesizers, no silky backup vocals. Just Iggy abusing the mic, twiddling the knobs and leading a loud, guitar-driven band through 72 minutes of high-octane rock ‘n’ roll reminiscent of his early work with The Stooges. That’s no idle comparison. Iggy’s new band The Trolls have a lot in common with his old combo. They’re a power trio. They have two brothers on guitar and drums — Whitey and Alex Kirst. Whitey’s snarling, crackling riffs bear more than passing resemblance to Ron Asheton’s electrifying style. Alex’s propulsive, primal beats aren’t too far removed from those of Scott (Rock Action) Asheton. Another similarity is sadder — as with The Stooges, death has claimed the band’s bassist. Former Body Count member Lloyd (Mooseman) Roberts was killed in a drive-by shooting in L.A. shortly after finishing work on this album.

The most obvious resemblance to The Stooges, though, is in the tunes. Beat Em Up‘s 16 tracks are mainly ragged, loosely structured jams, topped by Iggy at his most cathartic — bellowing, grumbling, growling, belching, howling, sneering, screaming himself hoarse, even heckling his own band (“Come on Whitey, is that the best you can do?” he taunts during one guitar solo). Most cuts have the sort of three-chord simplicity and immediacy that suggest they were recorded within minutes of being written. Some, Iggy has said, actually were. One is the opener Mask, a chugging battering-ram of angst that was inspired by an exchange between a Slipknot member and a fan (“Which mask are you?”) but also serves as one of Iggy’s trademark rants against our duplicitous times (“Where is the soul?”).

That poison cloud hovers over most of Beat Em Up, from the grim fatalism of Death is Certain (“There’s no cure”) and It’s All Sh*t (“Nobody cares”) to bite-the-hand-that-feeds-him showbiz indictments like Weasels (“Weasels suck and weasels blow / Weasels control rock ‘n’ roll”). Beat Em Up‘s capper, though, is V.I.P., a sardonic, sarcastic examination of celebrity’s pitfalls and perqs (“When I go to the bathroom, I go in the V.I.P. toilet,” Iggy jokingly boasts).

So after all that self-examination, it comes down to this: Iggy’s just one of those guys who ain’t happy unless he’s got something to bitch about. He oughta be having the time of his life these days. Listening to Beat Em Up, you will too.