Tuesday, August 13, 2019


AVENUE B--Iggy Pop

An album that's more interesting to read than listen to, I'm afraid:too much of his 1999 release, Avenue B, his 12th release, is light, redundant pop,disturbingly generic stylings that sap power from whatever conviction Iggy can summon. The version of 'Shakin All Over' rattles the teeth rather nicely, but overall, this album seems misguided, a mistaken idea to market Iggy into Real Legend, the Last Rock and Roll Survivor Who Matters. He may be all that, but there is a tangible sense of someone entering a room who believes His Time Has Come. There is more packaging than anything else; the emphasis on a slow-to medium pace while Pop ruminates, remembers, regrets and eventually reconciles with his life's deeds (theoretically at least) is not one of his strengths, and never has been. Unlike Lou Reed, who can go maudlin and sentimental until he ripens and rots and yet still manages to make you believe that he at means it, Pop sounds merely flat and cornball.He is and always will a ranter, a raver, a rocker, a reactor, never a thoughtful reflector of the meaning of his history. Ig has to rock rough and hard, with those clipped couplets and first-lesson guitar chords slicing up the music of history in ways that remind you that wit is a survival instinct. He can do it, as his fellow Motor City brethren Wayne Kramer, former MC-5, does on albums like The Hard Stuff and Citizen Wayne. We don't need Iggy to become the American Peter Townsend, forever flummoxed by the irony that he didn't die before he got old.

Friday, August 2, 2019


(from 2011)

Image result for amy winehouse
This is too sad for words, all the talent that Amy Winehouse had  now silenced because she couldn't muster up the strength to confront what was killing her.  Her song "Rehab"  showed she had an ironic awareness of her drug use , but this shows, again, that self-knowledge unaccompanied by action is inadequate . The insidious thing about being an addict is that the thought of stopping what you know will silence you forever abate quickly after the craving takes over and the first FIX of the day becomes all that matters at the moment. Self awareness vaporizes and you forget or ignore the truth of the matter and wallow in the nod and the eventual panic to get still more drugs. As talented and smart, even brilliant, as Winehouse was, she seemed more or less without a clue to the severity of her situation. Drugs make you stupid, they reduce your life to a banal statistic despite whatever genius potential you began life with, they kill you and make you another deceased cipher. The real tragedy is less that a brilliant artist is silenced too young in her career, but that we are bound to keep reading variations of this sad scenario for the rest of our natural collective lives.

The moral of this tale is simple: Save your own life.

This is a nicely written tribute by NY Times culture monger Guy Trebay on how the recently deceased Amy Winehouse will last, but it presents what I think will be the article that will dominate the flux of Winewhouse postmortems to come: more concern with what she looked like rather than how she sounded. It's a paradox that on the one hand the host of articles are yet to come will praise what were he conspicuous gifts, that unique voice (a combination of Billie Holiday and Diana Ross) and a surreal grit as a lyricist, and yet have the conversation drift, as if directed by gravity, to the matter of her appearance. I sympathize with Trebay, who was required to write so many snappy column inches with so little actual Amy Winehouse music to refer to. It's not as if there was something to surmount in her art as there was in Sinatra's skill set when his voice deepened and grew coarser, darker; he changed the way he sang and selected different songwriters to write for him, to brilliant effect. 

It's not like she's had an evolution as a lyricist, like Joni Mitchell or Elvis Costello, both of whom started out as gifted  who overtime  became precious, pedantic and harder to beat with each release. No, there is only a very slight bit of studio work in her brief stay with us, enjoyable , full of promise and , alas, she's dead.  This isn't unusual for an icon who didn't release many studio albums during her lifetime. It was a mere two for Winehouse, and basing a discussion of her work solely goes static before long. The valid conclusion is for us to ponder what might have been and then give a sigh, but since we're not yet finished wringing our hands over her passing, we have pundits applying a slipshod semiotics... to her sense of style , dealing in tortuously strained metaphors to wrench more cultural significance from her departed presence. It strains credulity, and it insults her fans and it insults her.