On the front of his second studio album, A.B. (After Bowie, who managed quite a rescue), Iggy Pop ironically looks less like a soldier than a used-up suicide commando. In “Take Care of Me,” he admits he’s paid “a heavy price for a heavy pose,” and the photo of an Ig hanging corpselike on Soldier‘s cover suggests that ten years of trying to out-gross, outrage and outrock the competition have exacted every physical and emotional penny that Pop ever had.
But the eleven tirades on the record prove that Iggy is anything but down for the count. Instead, he vigorously challenges the demons that have dogged him since Fun House by launching a new and impressive two-pronged offensive with big-beat belligerence and boldly lyrical exorcism. When he howls, “I need more than I ever did before,” he adds “truth” and “freedom” to his old shopping list of “cars,” “money” and “champagne.” In “Get Up and Get Out,” Pop takes a righteous stand against the usual misogyny in rock & roll toward women (a role he once championed in such sensitive Stooges salvos as “Rich Bitch” and “Cock in My Pocket”). And, in “Mr. Dynamite,” he peers into his own future, only to see himself betrayed by an audience that used to cheer for his self-destruction.
Backed by kindred spirits like ex-Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock (who wrote or cowrote four of Soldier‘s tunes), Ivan Kral of the Patti Smith Group and former XTC keyboardist Barry Andrews, Iggy now assails that audience with a manic vocal blitz. The ecstatic rises and poignant falls in his voice indicate Pop’s dramatic growth as a rock & roll singer. In “Play It Safe,” his arrogant roar demolishes what he diagnoses to be American youth’s complacent cowardice. With the same fury. Iggy cuts right through the song’s dryly declamatory harmonies by David Bowie and an English band, Simple Minds.
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The old Stooges number, “Dog Food,” may seem curiously out of place on an LP on which Pop is publicly confessing his past sins. But the rabid intensity of his performance here — matched shout for shout by his calls for street action in “Knocking ‘Em Down (in the City)” and the vitriolic “I Snub You” — is the link between the ghost of Ig past, the reality of Ig present and the promise of Ig future. Soldier, like all of his albums, is a hard-fought battle in a war that Iggy Pop is determined to win. Call him Ig noble.