Iggy Pop

Avenue B

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Where did this come from? 1993's electrocharged American Caesar proved the Ig was no spent force. But 1996's Naughty Little Doggie and other post-Soldier LPs the last 19 years yielded merely OK rock 'n' roll, short of his original outrageous inspiration. Time for a radical departure? Apparently so. Three decades into such an illustrious, infamous, distinguished career, Mr. Ostenberg takes his biggest leave from the Iggy Stooge outrageous rocker persona, even bigger than his Berlin Bowie days. At 52, the ex-STOOGES singer wants to play battlescarred sage, with an unexpected, stripped-down style that's equal parts Leonard Cohen, Scott Walker, '90s Lou Reed, and Tom Waits. Avenue B is thus his first becalmed, nakedly introspective LP. There's little hint of hard rock, outside of a boisterous take on JOHNNY KIDD & THE PIRATES oft-covered 1959 classic "Shakin' All Over," and a wonderfully cranky, nearly-psychedelic shocker called "Corruption." Otherwise, troubadour Iggy intones scared spoken word over chilling, soundtracky synths, and lightly croons songs of discontented, post-divorce sequestration betwixt acoustics and bongos. Hmmm! Big fans might lament the loss of raw power, but to hear what's eatin' the Ig after 30 years of carefree mayhem is rather illuminating. Avenue B is the aural alarm of a man who's advancing in age, and hates it without a regular mate. Though it works best with him just speaking apprehensively-the shell-shocked narrator in a world going to hell as always-Avenue B is holds together through a variety of quiet mood backgrounds and the Ig's directness. Clearly, it is the words he wants you to hear this time, this stirring of a soul who has finally faced the fact of his own mortality, if wonderfully so much later than the rest of us more regular mortals. His first album, in 1969, opened "Last year I was 21/Didn't have a lot of fun." His 16th LP, in 1999, begins "It was in the winter of my fiftieth year when it hit me/I was really alone and there wasn't a lot of time left." Prepare for an alienating nerve-wracker.

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