I had a dream that no one else could see,” intones Iggy Pop on “Candy,” a tough lost-love elegy from his strong new album, Brick by Brick. Indeed he had. More than twenty years ago, powering out of Detroit with his proto-thrash cohorts the Stooges, Iggy fashioned the dream self that built his career — point man for all that’s outcast, mutant, lonely and lost.
Having refined that rock & roll persona through violent theatrics, self-mutilation and occasional linkups with David Bowie, the Iggy of today is a commodity of outrage, guest starring in movies and TV shows that are hungry for a taste of the strange. Every garage band apes his stance, making Ig a paradoxical father figure — the Outlaw as Institution.
What’s sharp, then, about Brick by Brick‘s thirteen songs is the fresh zeal Iggy brings to his vision. Railing at “phony rock & roll” and “merchants of disgust,” he trains his gun once again on concession, ease and inauthenticity: “I read about a plastic surgeon and his art collection” (“Main Street Eyes”); “The girl with the hair flies by in her underwear/She’s done nothing so far to deserve that car” (“Butt Town”).
Trading in the flat-out metal of 1988’s underrated Instinct, Iggy musters Guns n’ Roses’ Slash, Kate Pierson of the B-52’s and an outfit of slumming pros (Waddy Wachtel, David Lindley) to churn out resolutely generic white-boy crunch rock with cocky, in-your-face conviction.
You don’t hope necessarily for something new from Iggy, you only pray he keeps the faith. On Brick by Brick, he does just that. By now an elder statesman of the wild, Iggy’s role as criminal-with-a-conscience is both mythic and essential. Ig reminds us that “something here is absolutely wrong” (“Starry Night”) — and that the uncompromised vision is the corrective.