Mutant Sinatra Syndrome

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I’m a product of America
From the morgue to the prisons
Cold metal, when I start my band
Cold metal, in my garbage can
Cold metal, gets in my blood
And my attitude

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I do like an album with a cracking lead off track and ‘Cold Metal’ on Iggy Pop Instinct really fits the bill, I just wish I’d heard it back when it was released in 1988, rather than twenty years later when I picked it up on a day when I couldn’t find anything I wanted more in the shop.  I remember reading about it in one of the sacred texts of 1537-ism Kerrang!’s 100 Best Metal LPs (1989), it was #69*.

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Instinct was the rock follow-up to Iggy’s highly improbable pop comeback LP Blah-Blah-Blah, Bowie contributions were out, the gnarly, shaggy figure of Steve Jones was in – I remember Iggy Pop enthusing about his hands in an interview at the time, ‘He has a pugilist’s hands.  Robert Mitchum hands’**.  Jones really does bring the rock too, playing an uncomplicated hard riffing style on Instinct that he carried on over to the next year’s solo album, the mighty, Fire & Gasoline.

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You want Iggy Hard Rock, rather than Pop? just check out the barreling ‘Cold Metal’ and the second side star ‘Tuff Baby’.  Both raucous, both as shallow as they come, both built on great riffs and both guarantee you a great time, ‘…Metal’ has the edge for me it’s a better tune and a slightly alternative edge.  But don’t take my word for it, check it out here – incidentally you get to see something else I’ve always liked about Iggy on this clip, just how unmacho he is, I’ve seen him a couple of times now and there’s something quite feminine about the way he moves:

The video was directed by the mighty Sam Raimi by the way.

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Bill Laswell was far too clever a producer to put his name to anything too one-dimensional and there is a fair bit of light and shade on Instinct; ‘High on You’ being a very good case in point.  Iggy almost croons the verses of this tunefully worshipful rocker – the irony being of course that Mr Pop was decidedly straight edge at the time.  In Gimme Danger by Joe Laswell, Bill Laswell is quoted, very perceptively indeed, as saying:

Iggy had a quality in his voice that wasn’t raw like a punk singer, that was a sort of mutant Frank Sinatra.  He definitely had that possibility with the low end; down at the low end of his voice … I think one day he will do ballads and things where he can really use his voice.

The best example of this and sometimes my favourite track on Instinct is ‘Lowdown’, where the man hits the mutant Sinatra overdrive to deliver a heartfelt paean to independence over a good rattling backing track.  And what does the once most dangerous man in music want?

Take that happy banner off the wall
I don’t need to see no smiling face
All I really want’s a cup of tea
To feel a warmth inside of me

I find that rather a sweet sentiment and ‘Lowdown’ is at once a signpost back to The Idiot and forward to the tone of Post Pop Depression.  Plus it has an elegiac guitar solo and you can never have enough elegiac guitar solos, as my grandmother always used to say.

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Okay so there are a couple of comparatively average tracks here, but the standard is high enough that they’re fine – they sound very redolent of a time and place for me.  Steve Jones only played a smattering of gigs with Iggy as he put together a really kick-ass band featuring Andy McCoy and UK Subs bassist Alvin Gibbs for the tour, but he really is all over this album.  If you’ve got a hard beating hard rock heart at all in your body you’ll find a few somethings to love here.  Besides, who could ever resist a ‘smile/vile/cars/Mars’ rhyming scheme, never me.

I love your hair
Your pearly smile
Your icing scan
Society’s vile
Insect cars
Horny men from Mars
I love you, tuff baby
I love you, tuff baby

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730 Down.

*which just shows how powerfully distorting the recency effect can be which is why I try not to review recent stuff too soon.

**no idea how or why this has stuck with me for 29 years.

15 thoughts on “Mutant Sinatra Syndrome

  1. Listening to this one for the first time as I re-read your great piece. What a great guitar sound! “Good solid” Iggy takes nothing away from “life-changing” Iggy, so I think I’m adding this one to the list.

    Would you recommend the Ambrose “Gimmie Danger”?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, kindly. Well worth it if you don’t have to pay top dollar for it.

      I wouldn’t recommend it totally, it made me think a bit less of him – I prefer the myth over the man. His own ‘I Want More’ is an astonishing read though – published by Henry Rollins no less.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When I think of Iggy, I think Trainspotting. Sinatra is an interesting addition to that mix. I quite like the rhyming scheme you mention and “your icing scan” is intriguing and a touch Cramps-esque.
    But I especially like that bunny.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great writeup as this and Brick and Brick are the only two Iggy solo albums I had ever bought! Until Mr J recently sent something my way!
    Dug the fact as you said that Iggy recruited McCoy on guitar! McCoy and Suicide’s guitar parts on the Hanoi Rocks albums are classic especially on the headphones friendly Two Steps From The Move album.
    Loved the fact that Iggy rocked it out and got ol Steve Jones as well …..gonna have to dig this one out again ….

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Yas! Iggy! I’d never read that mutant Sinatra quote before, but it’s totally spot on. I’m only familiar with bits and bobs from this one, but didn’t realise Steve Jones was on this. He sure gets about… he’s become one of my favourite guitarists over the years.

    Great write up, by the way.

    … and great pics, too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks J. I’d never really thought it before but Laswell was so right, he’s never been a real screamer at all.

      I’d recommend this one, it won’t change your life but it’ll show you a good time.

      Liked by 2 people

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