Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"Aprés" (2012)- Iggy Pop

Good morning! The chain of discovery two nights ago went something like this: friend-of-Matthew's puts "Did you see his eyes? Did you see his crazy eyes?" as his Facebook status. I wrack my little brain, sans use of Google, to remember where the line comes from. Five minutes later, a tiny light bulb flickers and "Neighborhood Threat", from Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life" album, makes itself known as the origin. "Bibi, have you ever heard this song?" I ask, while pulling it up on Spotify. There's a lot of twenty-first century technology involved in my listening-to-music-I-used-to-listen-to-on-a-turntable-in-high-school. Et voilà!


David Bowie being the first and biggest crush of my formative middle and high school years, of course I listened to a lot of Iggy Pop in the day. Bowie made the shrewd move in the early and mid-seventies' to work with two artists he technically considered "competition" to the same glitter-dusted, art rock Bowie fan base, producing Lou Reed's Transformer in 1972, as well as a whole slew of records for Iggy Pop, including "Lust For Life". I know you've heard the title track on the ubiquitous Royal Carribean commercial, but the rest of the album is also S-O-L-I-D. While taking Bab on a musical field trip through the tracks, I came across the full album listings for Iggy Pop as an artist, and what to my wondering eyes should appear....?

A new album!?

Of mostly French covers?!

Sung in French, by the man himself?!

I don't know what's going on with the Napoleon Bonaparte overcoat and Ike Turner turtleneck... just take my word for it, it's a good record!

Iggy Pop's Aprés is really excellent. And I was really surprised. I don't say that out of being a nattering nabob of negavity on the onset of any new venture; I say that as having somehow survived the crushing disappointment of 90% of my glam rock idols' 2000-2012 output. Perfect example conversation, presented for brevity's sake in time lapse over several months: "Oh, look, Lou Reed's doing a new album! Oh, look, Lou Reed's doing a new album based on Franz Wedekin's Lulu. NO WAY! As in Louise Brooks's Lulu character from Pandora's Box? This is going to be the best record ever!" ((pause)) "Who's his backing band?....Metallica......?......Oh." It still could have been good, but was, in fact, instead, AWFUL. Universally reviled. By me, especially. And I'm not even counting Bowie's Reality, because he gets a pass for having done the really-pretty-good Heathen a few years earlier. I digress. The point is, you don't see "new Iggy Pop record" in print and get the same kind of excited you should have in the late 70's. Nor should you.


One of Iggy Pop's post-Stooge-career strengths, after putting aside his steak knives and peanut butter for more in-studio work, has been a deep-ish alto voice that he occasionally uses to its full extent in songs like "Nightclubbing" or "Candy" (a guilty pleasure 1990 duet he did with the B-52's's Kate Pierson) . His voice can have a really nasal edge to it when he wants ("Raw Power", "Search and Destroy"), but it can also have a smooth texture you wouldn't expect to come out of the craggiest face this side of Mount Rushmore. He uses the crooner's, rather than the proto-punk rocker's, voice on this record, and I'm telling you, it does not disappoint.

Track listing with original artists:
1. "Et Si Tu N'Existais Pas" Joe Dassin
2. "La Javanaise" Serge Gainsbourg
3. "Everybody's Talkin'" Harry Nilsson
 4. "I'm Going Away Smiling" Yoko Ono
 5. "La Vie en rose" Edith Piaf
 6. "Les Passantes" Georges Brassens
7. "Syracuse" Henri Salvador
 8. "What Is This Thing Called Love?" Cole Porter
 9. "Michelle" The Beatles
10. "Only the Lonely" Frank Sinatra

Are you kidding? That's like side A of a mixtape I would have made ten years ago. I AM SO PLEASED.

It's obvious from listening to the man that he doesn't speak French, so why would Iggy Pop take on not one, but FOUR songs in the Gallic tongue? No need to guess-- he does a whole series of videos on youtube to explain his feelings on singing each of the songs! In spite of the fact that he would probably stick me with the bar tab, and possibly require me to bail him out of the county lock-up later, he's one of the few rock idols still living that I would like to sit down and talk to in the course of a regular evening. Isn't it fun to listen to him in casual conversation? In spite of the mountain of drugs he and Bowie consumed in the 70's and 80's, Iggy's still pretty together, for the most part. I love that he's wearing a shirt....OF HIMSELF. "Hey, bonjour," he says in the first moments of the video, "I'm...." and pats the impish figure of his seventies' incarnation, emblazoned across a t-shirt, as a means of introduction. Aaaaand, he had me at hello.

Key quotes from the interview (which you should watch): "This is the house where I keep my spirit!", "This is my vegetable garden, I got the idea for this from Michelle Obama", " "So in conclusion, I live a very quiet, conservative life, kind of an easy life...however, the devil still speaks to me...C'est la vie!"

How blue are his eyes, still, in that ravaged, hyper-expressive ol' face?

Sooooo, Iggy Pop has a vegetable garden, two waist-high serpent statues, and likes to compose on a toy baby grand piano. I can't say that I could be any more into this video than I am right now. His little Floridian, palm-treed, awning-covered 50's house? How neat is it to take a break from the throwing-yourself-onto-tables-from-the-stage lifestyle, do Qi Gong every morning, and see if your voice is suited to cover some of the softer hits from your personal music collection? There's a David Lynch quality to it in how quiet and unexpected a lot of the vocals are....I was REALLY concerned it was going to sound like a pre-made soundtrack to a Nancy Meyers movie (no offense, but Iggy Pop and the AARP circuit should never mix, in spite of his advanced age), but it's really kind of nice. I mean it!

You can listen to the whole record on Spotify, or download the album from Amazon and iTunes, but whatever you do, give it a shot you wouldn't necessarily give it otherwise. Because it really did defy my initial (and wrong) misgivings. And if you like what you hear, you're going to lo-o-o-ove some of those original artists as much as our friend Iggy Pop does. Why not check out some Serge Gainsbourg, Georges Brassen, and Edith Piaf while you're there?

Are you a French music enthusiast? Punk rock enthusiast? Or, like Iggy, both? What do you think about the new record if you've heard it? What are some of the biggest "new record" let downs or good surprises you've had recently? Let's talk!

If you need me, I'll be geeking out to tracks we were just talking about. Feel free to join me. See you tomorrow!

PS: Have you ever seen this "thank you" note he sent back to a fan in 1995? It would almost make you cry.  What celebrity takes time to do that kind of thing? A GOOD ONE.

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