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
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*.
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.
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.
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.
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
Horny men from Mars
I love you, tuff baby
I love you, tuff baby
*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.