Iggy Pop – Roadkill Rising: The Bootleg Collection 1977-2009

It’s fair to argue that Iggy Pop’s recording career peaked with his late 1970s Berlin comeback albums The Idiot and Lust for Life and the nail-spitting combo of New Values and Soldier – albums that argued for Little Jimmy Osterberg’s enduring relevance and visceral kick-assery against the challenge of punk rock. He’s kept ’em coming, too: Nothing like that Detroit work ethic. Of late, new interest has been generated by a Stooges reunion and concert tributes to classic fare like Raw Power and Funhouse. This 4-CD set is both a welcome and overdue survey of The Igster’s live shows of his post-crackup era, which is to say the last 30 years.

This board-tape bouillabaisse devotes a disc to each of four decades: the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and ’00s, loosely reflecting each period’s output while revisiting various classic nuggets of Stoogitude with whatever band Pop was fronting at the time, often as not recontextualizing older material for the current “sound” – which, at times, was pretty cheesy. The much better than bootleg quality of the recordings compensates for the disposable patches, and, as always, Iggy proves that you can never take him for granted. The intros alone are priceless: “Bon fucking Soir,” Pop greets a French audience, prepping them for “Dirt,” inviting a crowd surfer to “come on up here dude and have a good time.” We’re already well into the new millennium at this point, and damned if “Dirt” doesn’t hold up, even as all-pro roaddog rock ‘n’ roll, Iggy striding above the tortured wah-wah breaks with an oily, defiant majesty. A 1990s version of “China Girl” is the real revelation. Seeping out of the fuzzed-out guitars, the singer takes the smooth route, dropping into his baritone, cooing like Sinatra but then he hits these lines –

I stumble into town/ Just like a sacred cow/ Visions of swastikas in my head/ Plans for everyone.

– and goes straight to an emotional place that begins to turn his voice into an abyss. When he sings, “It’s in the white of my eyes …” he holds the syllables for piercing dramatic emphasis, daring you to look into them as he drills you down to the core. Maybe it’s this particular arrangement, with its extended electric guitar dirge, but it’s the first time I thought of “China Girl” as Iggy’s “Like a Hurricane.” It’s got a cathartic depth I never gave it credit for, perhaps because David Bowie hijacked it and trivialized it. It’s an epic.

And what follows it on this collection? “Butt Town”! As in, “you gotta get down.”  Oh that Iggy.

Iggy Pop
Roadkill Rising: The Bootleg Collection 1977-2009
[Shout! Factory]