Naughty Little Doggie
It's 1968 and James Osterberg, a white-trash trailer-park kid from Michigan, unwittingly helps invent punk rock. He does so by christening himself Iggy Pop and gracing the concert halls of America with a live act that features the excitable Iggy in various stages of excess. One minute he's rolling around on shards of broken glass, the next he's forcing himself into startling exhibitions of projectile vomiting. Then, just when you think he can't top himself, Iggy literally "does" himself by contorting his rubbery torso to perform amazing feats of solo oral sex. The antics are accompanied by Iggy's band, the Stooges, barreling through "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and other anthems to wanton debauchery; songs that become key chromosomes in punk's crooked DNA.
It's now 1996, and Iggy Pop is 48 years old. The Stooges are history, as are the more outrageous elements of Iggy's freak show. But Iggy the man, the underground legend, is still with us; still making the world a more interesting place.
And, God love him, he still wants to be your dog.
That's Iggy's mug looking like a confused basset hound on the cover of his latest CD, the aptly titled Naughty Little Doggie. And that's Iggy's id howling about sex on most of the songs, including the wonderfully moronic "Pussy Walk," on which Iggy admits that when he meets women--any women, all women--he secretly wants to ask them such penetrating questions as "Can your pussy walk?/Can your pussy talk?/Can your pussy prance?/Can your pussy dance?"
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Yes, the aging Iggy is still all boy.
Indeed, Mr. Pop's current state of mind is made manifest early: In Naughty Little Doggie's opening cut, "I Wanna Live," we learn that Iggy's cocky enough to consider himself "deeper than the shit I'm in." The CD follows with the obligatory odes to insatiability ("Pussy Walk," "Shoeshine Girl"), along with a few comparatively reflective songs like "Innocent World," which finds Iggy contemplating his adventures in drug abuse. This introspective spirit hits hardest on the CD's final cut, "Look Away," a brooding tune in which Iggy contrasts his survival instincts with those of lesser stock, like a 13-year-old rich girl he once slept with and the junkie musician she later took up with (similarities to New York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders are entirely intentional). By the end of the song, the girl is a teenage mother, the musician has died from an OD and a resigned Iggy is singing, "Now that I'm straight/I'm settled too/I eat and I sleep/And I work like you/I got lots of feelings/But I hold them down/That's the way I cope/With this shitty town."
Whether musing on tough times or gleefully questioning the improbable agility of female genitalia, Iggy's singing voice plays an ill-fated game of hide and seek with the notes he tries to reach. The results are like hearing a friendly Frankenstein's monster bolt up from his slab and start to croon. It can be disconcerting at first, but anyone who gets through this disc a few times will find himself missing the same notes as he sings along.
And the songs here have definite hooks. Iggy had a firm sense of catchy, if raunchy, songcraft when he lead the Stooges, but as a solo artist he has spent most of the last two decades moving progressively away from memorable melodies. Naughty Little Doggie reverses that trend. "Knucklehead" is especially catchy, and "I Wanna Live" combines the Ig's snarling vocals with a boogaloo beat and midrange fuzz chords reminiscent of the Stooges' classic "Search and Destroy." One of the best powder-keg songs of the Seventies, "S and D" had Iggy, immersed in combustible chaos, referring to himself as "the world's forgotten boy."
Twenty-four years later, Iggy is far from forgotten. He's celebrated as the crazy grandfather of all things alternative, the guy who stretched rock music wide enough to let punk stomp in and shake things up. Punk's current renaissance is teaching ever-younger audiences about Iggy's influence, and the Ig's cashing in on his fame. Naughty Little Doggie won't make many best-of lists at the end of the year, but it's a curiously encouraging disc from one of pop culture's most enduring icons. "I'm better than a Pepsi/I'm cooler than MTV," Iggy brags on "I Wanna Live," and you'd be hard-pressed to argue against the guy.