Iggy Pop – American Caesar (1993)

You have to feel sorry for Iggy Pop. The aging process is a nuisance for all of us. But if you’ve made your name as a shirtless, Afghan hound coiffured, cock swinging, drug sponge “Godfather Of Punk” then being in your 60’s must seriously suck.

To cap it all you’re now selling car insurance (and at least Johnny Rotten flogging butter had an air of whimsy). The Stooges are dying off. Your solo career is patchier than a roof with rising damp. At what point do you just start wearing a T-shirt and go away for a re-think?

This isn’t the purpose of this piece however, I just wanted an amusing introduction. I am here today to shine a light on the man’s 1993 album American Caesar. Upon borrowing a copy of this on CD my hopes weren’t high. I listen to bits and bobs of The Stooges and his solo highlights The Idiot and Lust For Life are filed under “great but never listen to it” (‘Mass Production’ is awesome though). So when the album started, I was shocked. Over a year later the sense of shock it still palpable. It stuns me every time that Iggy Pop could release an album as good as this. It’s excellent. I was not expecting that.

The key to the success of American Caesar is simply, quality. Nothing deep, nothing world-changing. Simply great rock ‘n’ roll, performed with bite and swagger. Give it a couple of listens and it’s air guitar time.

Having just said the record lacks depth as has actually occurred that this is nearly a (loose) concept album with a lot of the songs reflecting emotions or needs:
The need to be a rebellious on ‘Wild America’;
Jelousy on er, ‘Jelousy’;
Hate on er, “Hate”;
Love on ‘It’s Our Love’ (OK, it didn’t take a cryptographer to work out the themes!) and “Beside You”
The urge to be free on ‘Highway Song’;
The darkness inside on ‘Sickness’;
The temptation to give yourself over to the darkness on ‘Perforation Problems’;
Not finding a place for yourself ‘Social Life’:
Those times when we get a bit pretentious and full of ourselves ‘American Caesar’;
OK no idea what ‘Plastic & Concrete’ is about…
Damn-it-all, Iggy Pop is distilling the human experience! I was not expecting that, either!
It’s hard to pick a stand out, it just veers from one excellent song to another, maybe ‘Beside You’ is the most surprising in that it has the biggest quota of “Iggy Pop wrote this?” moments.
It’s not flawless, the title track is self-indulgent coupled with a forgettable last track means the album limps to a close. However even if you drop those two clunkers and the pointless intro song this is a 74 minute parade of storming songs. The spine of American Caesar is as rock solid as a 1970’s back four; top class rock ‘n’ roll tunes laid out one after another.  Iggy is in fine voice too: arrogant, preening and narcissistic  at times and bruised and wounded elsewhere. His band is on fire and the production is crisp too.
It even has a studio version of his “Louie Louie” cover, what more do you want?!
An excellent album, if like me you quite liked his work but doubted he could pull off a masterful solo album (without Bowie of course) then this is worth a listen!

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