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Classic Album Reviews: Iggy Pop | New Values / Soldier / Party Original Masters Editions

Three of the punk godfather's underheralded mid-period releases get upgraded.


These came out in 2003 – or at least that’s when I got them. Here’s what I said about them back then (with some minor editing):


You might not guess it by looking at him, but Iggy Pop is one of those guys who’s  always been ahead of the curve. No, really.

Think about it. Back in the ’60s, Pop — known to pals and police as Jim Osterberg — invented punk rock and stage-diving at the helm of the immortal and inimitable Stooges. In the ’70s, just around the time the rest of the world was ripping off I Wanna Be Your Dog and Raw Power, he was living in Germany and writing songs like Lust For Life and China Girl — which the public took another several years to turn into the hits they deserved to be.

So maybe the time is now right for folks to rediscover New Values, Soldier and Party, three mid-period Iggy albums that have just been newly remastered and reissued in Canada. At any rate, it’s high time these three titles were resurrected and put back on display like the rock artifacts they are. That they’ve also been spruced up nicely with the usual complement of bonus tracks, lyric sheets, extra photos and anecdote-laced liner notes … well, that’s just the extra cheese on the burger.

In terms of chronology as well as quality, 1979’s New Values is the obvious starting point. The followup to his critically lauded Berlin albums The Idiot and Lust For Life, New Values was something of a comeback album for Iggy, marking both his return to the U.S. and his reunion with latter-day Stooges guitarist James Williamson. Not surprisingly, the 12-track also contains echoes of the rawness and nihilism of a decade earlier. “I’m bored,” Iggy gripes wearily in his post-Morrison baritone. “I’m the chairman of the bored.” Rest assured you won’t be joining his quorum. Between the lean, muscular backing tracks, the gnashing guitar duels of Williamson and Scott Thurston, the crisp no-frills production and the presence of bona fide Pop classics like I’m Bored, Girls, New Values and Five Foot One — with its glorious, unforgettable refrain of “I wish life could be / Swedish magazines” — it’s not hard to get your money’s worth from New Values. Granted, there are a couple of softer cuts that don’t quite cut the mustard. But previously unavailable or rare cuts like the soulful and Stonesy Chains and the China Girl prototype Pretty Flamingo are fair compensation.

With 1980’s Soldier, Iggy had the chance to capitalize on his newfound career momentum. Naturally, being a self-saboteur on the level of Wile E. Coyote, he did his best to derail that train. Recruiting ex-Sex Pistol bassist Glen Matlock, Rich Kids guitarist Steve New and re-enlisting Williamson to produce were all good ideas. Too bad neither Williamson nor New could reportedly get along with Pop’s pal David Bowie, who attended the sessions. Williamson and New soon quit, leaving Pop stuck in the producer’s chair — and ticked off enough to erase most of New’s guitar parts. Hence, the embattled 13-cut Soldier is Iggy’s oddest-sounding disc, with minimalist arrangements dominated by bass and piano but lacking in the six-string crunch that usually defines his sound. Still, despite the upheaval, Iggy managed to add a few more gems to his resume, including the insistent and quirky Loco Mosquito, the ominous boogie I Need More, the ironically capitalist satire I’m A Conservative, and last but certainly not least, the appetizing Dog Food, yet another proclamation of the eternally downtrodden Pop’s indomitable defiance. “I’m living on dog food,” he barks, but not because he has to — because it’s yummy. “It makes you strong and clever too … Eat some every day.” For dessert, Soldier offers the strummy acoustic-guitar bounce of Low Life and the chunky instrumental Drop A Hook.

After the combative struggle of Soldier, it’s little wonder Iggy decided to call his 1981 effort Party; if anybody needed a good time, it was him. And fittingly, the 10 tracks on this disc present a more upbeat and jubilant picture of Pop, with punchy horn lines, synth-laden new wave production and, more significantly, catchier choruses, hookier melodies and a blatantly (yes) poppy approach. Much of this is the work of former Patti Smith guitarist Ivan Kral, who signed on with the apparently impossible goal of turning Iggy into a chart-topper. Well, he didn’t. But amid all the tuneful jingles and stylistic opportunism — Iggy does ska?! — you’ll find worthwhile fare in the noir rock of the title cut, the muggy haze and swagger of Houston Is Hot Tonight, the twisted love song Pumpin’ For Jill and the hallucinatory dance-rock of Bang Bang (later covered by Bowie). Iggy-fied covers of The Outsiders Time Won’t Let Me and Sea Of Love close the album, along with the low-key jangle of Speak To Me and a superbly smoky, surprisingly strong version of the Frank Sinatra chestnut One for My Baby. Why they left this one off the album is beyond me. It would have been the life of this Party.