Forget Dorothy, Iggy Pop is the most loveable dinosaur I know. At nearly seventy years of age, the Grand Wizard of the three chord rock song is still kicking and screaming like a motherfucker, which is good because there’s a whole new generation of punks recycling some of his best stuff and trying to get away with it. There’s a lot of Iggy that I knew I liked before I knew what it was; the descending mania of The Stooges ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, which characterised the glamorous violence of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, among others, the amazing aggressiveness of ‘Search and Destroy’ and about a hundred other songs you hear in between sets of inferior 21st century bands at festivals when they’re trying to gee up the audience. But as his shit-eating grin on the front of this record attests, Iggy’s in it not for the fame or the groupies or the drugs, but for everything. Lust For Life is an incredible piece of work from start to finish, and this piece is one of many jewels in an already overstuffed crown, sitting atop a man who has a better body at 64 than I’ll have in my entire life. Turns out The Beatles were wrong.
To the surprise of nobody, Australian band Jet broke up last week. In this fantastic interview that our good friend Caitlin did over at Mess + Noise, she raises the issue that many of their critics had with them and bands like them; they sounded like other, better bands from forty years ago. Specifically, if you were to calculate the ‘homage tax’ that the brothers Cester owed to Iggy and his crew for the drum beat and syncopated bass groove on ‘Lust For Life’, it would amount to almost all the dosh they made on that iPod commercial in 2003. The difference is, despite many years and millions of dollars of recording equipment, Iggy’s still has more life to it. Perhaps that has to do with his producer at the time, David Bowie, who also happened to co-write the tune. Maybe a lot of that has to do with the fact that even Iggy was accused of ripping off the groove from The Doors, who had a similar feel on ‘Touch Me.’ Whatever it is, I don’t particularly feel like trawling the archives to find the caveman who swung his quavers first when bashing his son against the wall to make sound. It is what it is and what it is is excellent.
As a singer, Iggy’s got nothing on his producer. But he makes up for that one hundred times over in swagger. You can actually feel his presence even when he’s not there, simmering behind the band as they take their time to build the beat and riff until you wonder if he’s ever going to come in at all. And then suddenly, he’s everywhere, sneering like that little jacked-up tearaway that he was in 1977. There’s definitely a Morrison-like shamanic quality to the way he effects his speech, imbuing with so much character that it must have completely bristled onstage at CBGBs back in the day – when he wasn’t cutting himself or stage-diving, a move he allegedly invented. Rhythm is everything in this piece of music, especially the melodic delivery; ‘I’m worth a mill-i-on in pr-izes’ sounds like it was custom built for the song, and with very little changing underneath Pop, it’s really his baby and he takes it that way. Ultimately, it’s a pump-up song that still has the same effect even amongst a newly crowded arena full of high level electronic production and studio magic. If there’s ever any proof that less is more, ‘Lust For Life’ is it. Now go to tell that to your mother.
Iggy Pop – ‘Lust For Life’