As a fellow Michigander, I have a certain inherent pride for Iggy Pop. Iggy and the Stooges did a lot for the blossoming punk scene in the seven short years that they were initially together. Listening to performances from that golden age of punk are so electrifying and invigorating, one is at risk of breaking something during the inevitable rocking out. That’s probably what makes their latest album, Ready to Die, so disappointing. I felt no compulsion whatsoever to rock out or even shuffle along with the beat.
The most disappointing and easily most obvious problem with this album is how deflated and subdued the whole thing sounds. I’m not saying Iggy Pop has lost his edge, but I think he definitely forgot to bring it to the studio with him this time around. There’s nothing to this album that has the same reckless abandon the Stooges’ older albums had. I’m all for musicians exploring other styles and branching out into new genres, but this isn’t it. In fact, is so much the opposite of exploring that it’s stagnation.
The album opens with “Burn,” which is nothing amazing, but it’s promising. The guitars wail and cymbals crash and Iggy’s voice takes on a Bowie-esque depth which is interesting. But then the song ends, and you are presented with the song “Sex and Money.” I applaud for Iggy’s desire to stay edgy lyrically, but to hear him sing it leaves one feeling bereft. The song is missing the raw, vulgar electricity of Iggy’s other racier hits like “Penetration.”
The rest of the songs on Ready to Die tend to follow this trend. “Gun” is an interesting comment on American politics and culture, but it’s so poorly executed that it’s hard to take seriously. Then there are songs like “Dd’s” which is about breasts and offers poetry like, “I’m on my knees for those double Ds.” Really, Iggy?
There are a few tracks on Ready to Die which are probably best described as ballads. These are the songs that are probably the most interesting, if for no other reason than it’s a dimension rarely visited by Iggy and the Stooges. “Unfriendly World” is a world apart from the rest of the album, and the subdued feeling actual works.
Overall, this album is not great. It has its moments, but for the most part, it just seems like a half-assed attempt at reliving the “good ol’ days.” It’s definitely better than the 2007 flop The Weirdness, and it’s probably worth at least one listen, but I think most of us still expect more from Iggy, even after all these years.