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Lust For Life
Iggy Pop

RCA 2488
Released: September 1977
Chart Peak: #120
Weeks Charted: 6

Iggy PopIggy 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.

Iggy Pop - Lust For Life
Original album advertising art.
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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 the broken glass again. Here comes success, Iggy, and you deserve it more than just about any perform 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.

- Billy Altman, Rolling Stone, 1/12/78.

Bonus Reviews!

If you're not from Detroit it requires a real act of faith to appreciate Iggy Pop. It's all very well to talk about his vision of the darker recesses of the human soul, but it would be nice if he threw in some music (or rock-and-roll, which is not always the same thing) to go with it. The only time he ever accomplished that little trick was on Raw Power, and that was basically a showcase for James Williamson's haunted guitar playing.

This new one, hard on the heels of The Idiot -- which was so ridiculous that even diehard fans complained -- is merely sad. The cover photo is a giveaway; Iggy looks (perhaps deliberately) like a real idiot. And the music inside... well, let's just say that the contempt performer/producer/Svengali David Bowie feels for both Iggy and their mutual audience has never been so obvious. The result is a collection of non-songs so mechanistic, unfeeling, and ugly as to make Kraftwerk sound like Robert Johnson in comparison.

- Steve Simels, Stereo Review, 2/78.

In his second collaboration with David Bowie, Pop's sound has become less abrasive and more commercial. The voice of desperation and rebellion has shifted to more of a narrative tone depicting late night, low life street images.

- Billboard, 1977.

If The Idiot exploits the (trance-prone) affinity for the slow rocker that Bowie evinced on Station to Station, this reestablishes the (apollonian) affinity for the dionysiac artist Bowie made so much of five years ago on Mott's All the Young Dudes. Like most rock and rollers, I prefer this to The Idiot because it's faster and more assertive -- which means, among other things, that the nihilistic satire is counteracted by the forward motion of the music itself. A-

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

The pounding drums that open Lust for Life instantly signal that the album is a brighter, harder-rocking affair than The Idiot. While black humor was an undercurrent throughout The Idiot, it is brought to the front on Lust for Life, both musically and lyrically. Using the title track as a template, the record not only rocks, it swings and it swings hard. Bowie wrote most of the music for the record and it reflects his musical ambition, careening from the hard rock of the title track to the strutting piano of "The Passenger," the jaunty ironic sing-along of "Success," to the stylized R&B of "Tonight." While Iggy Pop spent most of the decade trying to escape the pop leanings of Lust for Life, he never made a better record. * * * *

- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

A seminal work, Lust For Life captures the energetic magic of the Stooges but incorporates some dynamic sophistication courtesy of Bowie's influence. * * * * *

- Gary Graff, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

The godfather (and grandfather) of punk hooks up with the Thin White Duke (aka David Bowie wearing the producer's hat) with resounding success on this ultimate combination. A few fans frown at the title track -- one of the greatest R&R anthems -- being used in a Carnival Cruises ad, but it made a great Trainspotting track, and all agree this manifesto represents Iggy at his apogee singing with reckless abandon, flying without a net. * * * *

- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.

The year 1977 was Iggy Pop's annus mirablis. He returned from well-documented mental and professional problems to produce two albums that any artist would be happy with over the course of a career, and he also saw punk-- the movement he was often hailed as the "godfather" of -- come to fruition.

Like The Idiot, Lust For Life was recorded in Berlin's Hansa Studios, just by the Wall, but where that album had been more contemplative and influenced by producer Bowie, Lust... represented a return to the more punchy sound of The Stooges (although Bowie did play piano and contribute vocals). Where the former album had been the sound of a man feeling his way back in music, Lust For Life was far more confident.

From the ebullient drum intro of the title track, the songs are driven by the rhythm section of Hunt (drums) and Tony (bass) Sales, the second pair of brothers to fulfill this role for Pop. (The Sales brothers were later to reappear as half of Tin Machine, Bowie's late-Eighties stab at art-house hard rock, of whom the less said the better.) The band seamlessly cover a range of genres from wig-out stomp to bluesy rock.

Lyrically, Lust For Life is a revelation, as Pop uses the experience of his troubled ears to great effect on "The Passenger," a jaunt through a metropolis of excesses which, while he may not be able to sample them any more himself are picture-perfectly recalled. He is in even more caustic form with "Success," a tongue-in-cheek poke at his newfound position.

While a generation of young punks paid tribute to his previous work, Pop was moving up a notch.

- Seth Jacobson, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

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