Iggy Pop makes music with his evil twin

March 18, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

Even though its actual title is "American Caesar," the new Iggy Pop album could as easily be called "The Two Faces of Ig."

"There are kind of two people presented on this record," Pop explains, over the phone from a tour stop in New Orleans. "There's one guy, he plays standing up, just singing at the top of his lungs in kind of a nasal voice. Half of what he sings is ad lib. A lot of it's real negative.

"Then there's this other guy who sings seated, and his voice has kind of a mellow tone. It reminds me of cherry wood, like a wine cask or something. The guy's very gentle. He's thinking.

"There are no real easy fixes on what the attitudes are," he adds, referring to the two sides of his musical personality. "There's a lot of emotion in the songs. In fact, I think the best of what I would call sedentary songs on this album may be more successful than the rock songs -- probably because it suits my ears. When I listen back, I really like '[Expletive] Alone' and 'Social Life.' "

Could it be that Iggy Pop is getting mellow in his old age?

Not hardly. There's a reason, after all, that the cover to "American Caesar" boasts a sticker reading "Parental Warning: This Is an Iggy Pop Album." Pop has been pushing the limits in rock 'n' roll since he and the Stooges made waves way back in 1969, and his writing remains just as irreverent and iconoclastic today, from the wacky social commentary of "Wild America" to the surreal theater of "Caesar."

"By the way," says Pop, " 'Caesar' was not only [recorded] straight to tape live and unmixed, but is an entire ad lib. It's funny. My producer, Malcolm Burn, has been a protege of Dan Lanois, who owns the studio where I worked. So Dan was around a lot when we were doing that thing, and Dan said, 'Don't put that out. Don't release that. Some people won't get the joke.'

"I said, 'Dan, there's no joke.' "

Then there's Pop's version of "Louie Louie," which finds him augmenting the original lyrics with lines such as "A fine little girl is waiting for me/ But I'm as bent as Dostoyevsky." How did he come up with that take on the song?

"I came to it roundabout," he says. "I was being pressured for a hit by the record company that hated my album. Which is funny, because by saying 'Give us a hit,' what they're really saying is, 'Play "Louie Louie," man.'

"About three days before we were supposed to cut the thing, I thought, 'What am I thinking?' I can't sing the verses -- I'm 46, I'm married. I garden, I read. I can't sing, like, blankety-blank, all this.

"At my stage of rigor mortis, you're supposed to include great books and stuff about politics and the world situation and some social problems. That's right -- I did the Don Henley version," he says, laughing. "I had a blast. It only took 10 minutes."

A little 'Caesar'

To hear excerpts from Iggy Pop's "American Caesar" album, call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6136 after you hear the greeting.

Iggy Pop

When: Thursday, March 24, 8 p.m.

Where: The Concert Hall at Camden Yards (formerly Hammerjacks)

Tickets: $17.50

Call: (410) 659-7625 for information, (410) 481-7328 for tickets

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