Phil Freeman, one of my favorite rock critics, reexamines Iggy Pop’s New Values, released in 1979 after Ig’s Bowie collaborations and on which he writes almost every song himself as if to prove he can do things himself. I bought it recently. The surprise was seeing Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers sideman Scott Thurston playing many instruments, but after the tunes sank in it made sense: this is an album whose punk genes are exposed in Iggy’s contrapuntal, staccato vocals and the way in which he comes at rhythm sideways, not in the arrangements, which to my ears sound like Mott The Hoople wrestling with horn charts and percussion; the guitar on “I”m Bored” even sounds like a pretzeled Captain Beefheart bit from the same era straightened and desalted. Unlike Phil I like the chairman of the bored line and Iggy, who’s fancied himself a primitive since the Stooges days, gets away with “African Man.” We’d have August Darnell soon enough.
When he and Bowie reunited, they were worth a million in prizes, thanks to the success of Let’s Dance and Tonight and their Iggy copyrights. Blah Blah Blah, the album that Bowie produced and co-wrote and made in his words “commercial as hell,” is maligned these days but heard past the thudding drum machines, hamhanded power chords, and dinky DX-7 lines recasts New Values in eighties shoulder pads; it’s wacky and fun, preferable to Iggy’s “mature” 1990 Don Was collaboration Brick By Brick (with a John Hiatt cover!) and far better than Bowie’s own songs. Chris O’Leary explains BBB’s vices and virtues here.