Is Iggy Pop OK? Is he dying? Is he broke? We ask because we care, and apparently we’re not alone, because this page called “Dead or Alive? Iggy Pop” was just updated three days ago. He’s not dead. But Iggy Pop is 66 years old now, and he just made an album called Ready To Die. It’s expectedly loaded with feelings that are far flung from his Lust For Life heyday, and even though this marks the first Stooges album with Raw Power lick master James Williamson on guitar in almost 30 years, this new album of old ideas hits hardest at its softest, most melancholy moments.
That’s not to say the rock isn’t rockin’. Opener “Burn” starts with a startling, explosively heavy drum-and-guitar thunderclap just to remind us all that, yes—this is a fuckin’ Stooges record, and we’re seriously doing this right now. The following 34 minutes is a satisfying, if sometimes disingenuous, jolt of regret and reminiscence, whose least interesting moments are those power-chord-fueled, everyman rock cuts with titles like “Sex and Money,” “Job,” and “DD’s” (pronounced “Double D’s,” if that legendary abs-out Iggy Pop subtlety had you fooled). These songs are quick and catchy like the best of the Stooges, but where old tracks were soaked in coked-up fear, lust and anger, these don’t do much more than communicate the basest classic rock party lines—”Working for The Man sucks! Staring at boobs is terrific!”—in as few chord changes as possible.
One notable exception is the song “Gun,” which describes a country freaked out on violence with the happily-manic cadence of an Alice Cooper song (and gets stuck in your head just as fast). In this song Iggy basically writes off World War Three as a drunken bar brawl we’ll just have to deal with some day, singing “Now it’s time to duke it out, nuke it out, and black it out.” Against all this album’s mortality, there’s something comforting about the way Iggy knocks the apocalypse down.
Iggy Pop doesn’t have time for Armageddon. He’s seen friends die and almost been there himself, and Ready To Die hits hardest when Iggy parks his chest-gazing to acknowledge that. On “The Departed,” a dark country ballad steeped in crisp slide guitar, Iggy opens up on the death of original Stooges guitarist and longtime friend Ron Asheton, channeling some late-game Johnny Cash gravitas. On “Unfriendly World,” another acoustic ballad, Iggy takes an emotional inventory of his life while staring at empty picture frames, old Christmas toys, and other collected junk that proves, despite the hazier moments, he has existed on this planet. Both tracks are honest, reflective, and powerful. Even though they disrupt the album’s predominantly punky rhythm, they also elevate it above rock cliches.