“I’m the guy with no shirt who rocks…” – Iggy Pop, 2022
I must admit I spent most of last week still in that Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Dream Canteen haze I’ve been in lately. But then Friday, like a thunderbolt, Iggy Pop released a brand new song, the aptly titled “Frenzy” and the next thing I know I’m jumping around with my shirt off, pumping my fist in the air. Music just… hits me sometimes.
I’ve admitted in these pages before, I didn’t grow up listening to Iggy Pop. Growing up in a conservative, small city in the Midwest, Iggy Pop wasn’t something you were going to hear on the local radio. The powers that be – the suits – who tightly controlled what people hear on the radio, weren’t going to put something as visceral and subversive as Iggy on during drive-time. The suits likely thought Boston was dangerous. I’m not sure I knew who Iggy was until I got to college and started reading Rolling Stone. His 1977 albums (2 in one year!) The Idiot and Lust For Life produced by David Bowie were always in those Rolling Stone “Best Albums Ever” issues and in college I had started religiously reading Rolling Stone so I’d heard the name… well, I’d read the name. I sort of relegated Iggy to that list I had in my head of artists that critics dug but no one else did… although ultimately I did end up listening to most of those bands (Digging In Deeper: Artists/Albums To Expand Your Music Collection; Don’t Be Afraid!). And in those very same pages of Rolling Stone every artist who they interviewed, if they were punk influenced, hard rock at all, would mention Iggy Pop as an influence. I thought he was just one of those artists other people name-dropped to sound cool. I figured most of them had never really listened to him, they just wanted the street cred. Even on cooking shows I’d see Iggy – Anthony Bourdain worshiped him. At best I may have heard Iggy on MTV, likely something from 1986’s Blah Blah Blah, his final collaboration with David Bowie but it didn’t connect with me at the time.
I don’t know how I avoided Iggy for as long as I did. I knew he was pals with Bowie and I’ve been a huge Bowie fan since the early 80s. I just never jumped the fence over to Iggy’s side. Sometimes we take circuitous routes to find an artist, but my journey to Iggy was beyond odd. In 2013 I was driving in my car and the local radio station had just got their copy of the Queen of the Stone Age’s then new LP …Like Clockwork and they went old school and played the whole thing on-air. I connected with that album immediately… I seem to remember pulling my car over and parking in a lot near my house so I could hear the whole thing. That sent me deep into the QOTSA catalog. Then in 2016 I heard Josh Homme of the Queens was producing and playing on a new album of Iggy Pop’s entitled Post Pop Depression. I figured Iggy and Homme would be an interesting pairing. I heard the single, “Gardenia” and I was hooked. I bought the album and man, I loved it. The next thing I know I’m buying The Idiot and Lust For Life, the very records I’d scoffed at in college. Those albums are simply put, masterpieces. Iggy’s career has been a little up and down since so picked up albums scattered through his solo career from New Values to Blah Blah Blah to American Caesar. I even dug parts of his last LP Free with it’s horns and jazz-style tunes. It was a cool stylistic left turn. At the time, I may have been clandestinely video taped by my daughter in Snapchat while dancing to “James Bond” from that record. I was doing a Travolta in Pulp Fiction twist thing… it felt right at the time… although I’m not sure I wanted that captured for posterity, there may have been drink involved.
It took me a while but eventually I took the plunge and went deeper into Iggy. I started buying albums from his first band, the Stooges. The Stooges were formed in Detroit Rock City by Iggy and the Asheton brothers after Iggy had seen Jim Morrison and the Doors in concert. The Stooges just RAWK. If you’re looking for visceral, proto-punk, off the chain rock and roll, it’s the Stooges you’re looking for. Listening to their three LPs – The Stooges (1969), Fun House (1970), and especially Raw Power (1973, produced in part by yes, Bowie) – you begin to understand why every punk rocker in the late 70s and hard rocker of the 80s would name check Iggy. The Stooges era was when Iggy would tear his shirt off and crowd surf… occasionally either cutting his chest with broken glass or smearing peanut butter thrown at him from the crowd all over his chest… which would have been my choice rather than self harm with broken glass. The Stooges were primal rock n roll. They tapped directly into the Id, into that lower brain stem. I’m not sure Iggy has worn a shirt since those days…
Don’t get me wrong, Iggy has really rocked hard in his solo career at times, but I don’t think too many will disagree with me that he hasn’t rocked as hard as the Stooges, well, ever since. And then yesterday I heard “Frenzy.” Oh my god does this song rock. It takes me right back to Raw Power. It’s produced by Andrew Watt who I have quickly become a big fan of. He’s produced some modern pop stars, Post Malone and Miley Cyrus but he seems to be a neo-classicist when it comes to rock n roll and produced stellar albums from Eddie Vedder (Earthling) and Ozzy’s last two LPs (the comeback Ordinary Man and the recently released Patient Number 9). Watt also plays guitar on “Frenzy” with what appears to be his “go-to” rhythm section of drummer Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and bassist Duff McKagan (Guns N Roses). They make a helluva band. They played metal for Ozzy now they’re playing punk for Iggy. The circle is complete.
The track starts off with a dash of feedback before the heavy, fuzzy guitar riffs start. The drums and bass hit like a division of Panzer tanks invading the town square. Iggy sound viciously unhinged, spitting out lines like “I’m in a frenzy you fucking prick, I’m in a frenzy you god damn dick.” The man has never been known to mince words. And let’s admit it, we’ve all been there a time or two. For a guy who I thought might hang it up after Free, Iggy is back and better than ever and when he sings “My mind is on fire, I will not retire,” I think we have to believe him. Watt, with Chad and Duff, have captured the real spirit of the Stooges here. And I love that Iggy can still embrace that kind of well, raw power. Here’s the video:
Again, I thought Iggy had shuffled off into retirement. There’s no retirement shuffling for Iggy fucking Pop folks. The good news is that this isn’t just a one off single from Pop and Watt. It appears Andrew and his all star rhythm section are sticking around to record an entire album. I don’t know when it’s coming or what it’s called, but if this is how it’s going to sound it’s going to be a very, very rocking fall.
Turn this one up to 11, pour some Woodford, take your shirt off, get some peanut butter and behold the power (raw or otherwise) of Iggy Pop! And don’t be surprised if you hear me mumbling, “I’m a street walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm…”