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Iggy Pop
Beat ‘Em Up

Don’t be fooled by the cover of Beat ‘Em Up…it’s not as nasty on the inside as it is on the outside. Yes, it rocks and it rolls and so on, but why is Iggy’s sound so fresh and clean? He’s always had a beautiful voice, and he’s made a career of abusing it in delightful ways, and that voice, often times, stood out in contrast to the raw sounds that his bands produced (most famously, of course, The Stooges). Even on the Beat ‘Em Up tracks that at least threaten the listener with a good sound beating, the twinkle and sparkle of polished production soften whatever blows might have connected.

Beat ‘Em Up does have its moments. "Mask" opens it up with Iggy ripping on America’s soul-crushing corporate culture over a throbbing rhythm, asking "where is the soul…where is the love?" What comes next is a whole lot of filler…tracks that go nowhere for far too long. In "Weasels", Iggy (predictably) rails that "Weasels control rock and roll," and yeah, sure, that’s been obvious for ages, but hey…do weasels control Iggy as well? Virgin has as many rodents running around in suits as the next Entertainment Giant, so I have to wonder…is Iggy bitching in general about the weasels that run Rock Manufacturing Inc., or is he straining against the leash he’s on? Honestly, folks…the sound is soooo benign on a few of these tracks, you’d think that this was Ozzy’s latest dopey opus if not for Iggy’s pipes.

GG Allin was a newer, more frightening model of what Iggy was in an earlier age, hatched a mutant to entertain a meaner generation. GG never got any real respect because, when he wasn’t masturbating onstage or cutting himself up and bleeding all over everyone, he was macing all the people in the front row with one hand and flinging his own poop toward the folks in the back with the other. He wasn’t a very good singer either, HOWEVER…GG always had a great rock band behind him. The Murder Junkies come to mind…they seemed to play on raw instinct, knowing exactly where to go at exactly the right time. When they went into the studio to record, they played with the same sort of precision recklessness that propelled their live shows. Since there were no suits around, (GG smelled pretty bad and if he maced his fans, imagine what he’d do to record company weasels…) there was no filter, and the result was great and powerful rock music. GG eventually died for his sins, but Iggy’s been clean longer than GG was alive, and he’s still here making records so…I wonder if The Murder Junkies are available?

Beat ‘Em Up ends up being more threat than promise, although Iggy’s old moves still flash into sight. On "Ugliness", easily the best track on the record, you can barely hear Iggy clapping in time just below the mike while he describes all the bad and awful things people deal with on a daily basis. Just when you expect to hear another tired guitar solo smack dab in the middle of the thing, he lays into a one note car horn instead, and the track comes off as totally spontaneous…the way rock music should sound.

—Jeff Noise

Track Listing:

Beat ‘Em Up
Talking Snake
The Jerk
Death Is Certain
Go For The Throat
Drink New Blood
It’s All Shit

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