Iggy Pop’s second comeback album leaves one with ambivalent feelings: glad that Iggy is alive, apparently well, writing, singing and performing again, but upset because his new stance is so utterly unchallenging and cautious. Taken purely on its own terms, Lust for Life is a successful album. Side one is quite good, starting with the title cut, which rocks with a Sandy Nelson-like drum style while Iggy delivers his survivor message to the masses, and continuing to the closing track, “Tonight,” easily the most straightforward pop song Iggy has written. Side two is considerably weaker, with a pair of overdrawn ballads, an infectious throwaway and one bona fide winner, the ominous “Neighborhood Threat.”
Were this just another album by just another artist, that might be the end of it, but Iggy Pop has never been just another entertainer. As rock’s truest bad boy, Iggy led the Stooges with a vision of frustrated, depressed and angry young adult life that will probably never be seen (or dared) again. That he has come back from the edge relatively intact is almost a miracle. With David Bowie as producer and guide, he is actually realizing a career for the first time. Like Lou Reed, Iggy is most likely headed on a course just left of center, bizarre enough to attract those inclined toward something different but safe enough not to scare them away.
It is questionable, though, whether Iggy has anything important left to say. To make any art in the future, he would probably have to start self-destructing, and neither he nor any of us really want to see him crawling through broken glass again. Here comes success, Iggy, and you deserve it more than just about any performer I’ve ever seen or heard. I just wish there were some way that your music could be important and your life happy at the same time.