Iggy Pop - Avenue B Iggy Pop
Avenue B
(Virgin)


Iggy Pop is pretty bummed out about getting old.

The one-time manic punk rocker is subdued throughout most of Avenue B, opening the record with the declaration: "It was in the winter of my 50th year when it hit me/I was really alone/and there wasn't a hell of a lot of time left."

The disc is divided by spoken word segments about age, fear of commitment and emotionally "freezing out" old girlfriends 'til they leave. The songs themselves are mostly mellow dark lounge pieces spotlighting a failed affair with one girlfriend or another one is a "Nazi Girlfriend," another was "Miss Argentina" and another tells the story of a "perfect" relationship ruined by neglect and abuse ("I Felt The Luxury").

The latter has an old-fashioned beat poet quality, while the title track, "Avenue B," has jazzy '70s guitars, and "Miss Argentina" sounds like a longingly sad follow-up to "Windmills of Your Mind." Most of this album listens closer to Pop's most "pop" hit duet, "Candy," from a few years back, than to his crash-and-burn rock style of 10-20 years ago, though a couple of tracks, like the rootsy grind of "Shakin' All Over" do let Pop kick up the volume and rock. Pop's poetry is still street-level base, as he compares one girl to a "Motorcycle" and sings of another whose "French is perfect/so's her butt."

He also tosses in references to the Rolling Stones and Ramones.

Pop's low, sad growl works well to set the mood of this often claustrophobic portrait of an aging, lonely man. But with its depressing stage set, Avenue B is probably not the kind of album you'll want to play on a sunny day. If you're not a goth music fan, this may be your perfect disc for wallowing in gloom.

 

Various Artists - Pop O.D. The Songs of Iggy Pop Various Artists
Pop OD: The Songs of Iggy Pop
(Static)
½


If you miss that frantic Pop punk energy of yore, you might want to seek out this tribute album from a host of Detroit garage bands.

The quality varies among the 23 covers included here (not surprisingly, because you probably won't recognize a single band name), but the energy level crashing through Pop's catalog is certainly consistent.

The Process probably sounds the most like Iggy Pop with the deep-voiced male vocalist hitting perfectly Iggy-like notes on the heavily synthesizer-backed version of "Endless Sea."

Most disappointing is Twitch's reggae-based retake of "Lust for Life" which, with the rhythm revamp, completely loses the most recognizable (and engaging) bit of that song the pounding bass-drum riff. But give 'em credit for trying to do it a little different, I guess.

Likewise, the Impaler & Cindi St. Germain perform "Candy" (which paired Pop with Kate Pierson of the B-52s) as a dramatic poetry reading, instead of a song, and Acoustic Terminator's "I'm Bored," substitutes acoustic guitars for power, though it still sounds edgy.

Franklin Sane's take on "I Wanna Be Your Dog" turns up the distortion knob, however, as do most of the rest of these acts, who cover "TV Eye," "Search & Destroy," "I Got a Right," "Kill City," "Nightclubbing"and more. Other bands featured include Red September, the Lovemasters, Kristiva featuring Skinhorse, Culture Bandits, Down Boyz and more.

If it's not in your local record store, check the Web site at www.staticrecords.com.

 

Marie Wilson - Real Life Marie Wilson
Real Life
(Atlantic)


Fresh, engaging, hummable those are the first things that I'd say about Marie Wilson's new disc.

I'd also mention it rocks, has huge-sounding (though unabrasive) guitars, bit background vocals and ... oh yeah ... it's country.

Well, not strictly.

Marie Wilson is in that category of "new country" artists who certainly have some torch and twang in their repetoire, but like Shania Twain, have begun using big studio sounds and modern pop hooks to take Nashville out of the '50s and into the next century.

Wilson serves up a dozen country-rock tracks on Real Life, and they're consistently catchy, hooky and sharp.

"Next Time" borrows the form from late '80s power ballads to set up a declaration of female freedom from a love gone bad (she moves from singing "next time/things will be different baby" to closing the song with the take-control declaration: "Next time/there will never be a next time.")

"Won't Keep a Good Girl Down" incorporates pounding drums, "ooo-ahhh" vocals and a George Harrison-era sitar line as Wilson again launches into a girl power anthem.

And the title track, "Real Life," is a memorable call to appreciate every minute "This is your real life going by/every day and every night," she sings.

This is one of the best cross genre country-rock discs of the year. Seek it out and play it loud.

 

Kim Richey - Glimmer Kim Richey
Glimmer
(Mercury)


Kim Richey is a more traditional country artist than Marie Wilson, though she still qualifies as a member of the "new country" crowd, concentrating more on catchy choruses than steel guitars and songs about bars and trailers.

"Can't Lose Them All" leads off the album with a catchy, easy loping anthem of trying and trying till you get it right.

"Other Side of Town" features the kind of "do-do-da-dos" that Paula Cole uses, and pop producer Hugh Padgham makes sure that the chorus kicks in from the strumming verses to be big, proud and powerful.

Padgham also helps gloss up an already slick chorus in "The Way it Never Was" for easy adult contemporary radio play.

More often than not, though, Richey sings in a laidback contemplative mode, reeling in comparisons to Nanci Griffith in "Hello Old Friend," Matraca Berg on "Good at Secrets" and Roseanne Cash on other tracks, like the gently beautiful "Lay It Down."

Glimmer is a nice easy listen with its feet laced in pop, but its hat a tilted cowboy brim.