Gary Steel is slowly compiling all his album reviews in one place. This is a work in progress, or what we call a “live document”. Today is the letter ‘I’.
Ice-T’s The Iceberg/Freedom Of Speech is very strong medicine indeed, and the next best thing we’ll get in the warzone of rap until the next Public Enemy missile. This is dangerous stuff, opening with a speech by former Dead Kennedy Jello Biafra, and moving on to hardline political defensives divvied up by a few sexist intermissions (but hey, even true offensiveness validates a record these days). And it’s more varied than Power, its predecessor. 7/10
Mixing the rich croon of Scott Walker sound-a-like Robert Ian McNabb with the pomp of U2 and the smoochiness of latterday Echo, and adding prophetic-sounding but largely indecipherable lyrics, The Icicle Works probably aren’t as good as they would appear in the glow of immediate seduction. Still, this is lush stuff, mature and devoid of faddish tendencies. There’s not a drum machine in sight, and neither is it a tons-of-guitars record. Refreshing but without greatness. 6/10
“This side”/”That side”, says the label. Pop has already given us his other side. We’ve seen the Ig as living/dying king of self-abuse/mutilation, living out his rock-star death trip for all of us ghouls in the safe world.
To what we expected of him this is his valedictory: he’s telling us that he ain’t gonna OD to save our souls like Morrison or end up a strung-up mannequin on the washing line ala Unca Lou. He’s laughing at us for expecting him to bear our cross; living out a life we’re all secretly enchanted by, but too scared to risk. But he’s also chiding himself for letting us delude him.
From the very first track, he makes his intentions known in ‘Loco Mosquito’, which makes nonsense of past ‘convictions’: “My mommy told me, if I were goody, that she would buy me, a rubber dolly.”
Pop has caught humour. On ‘Ambition’ he’s a girl singing to a Beatlesque tune with Bowie vocal inflections. ‘Take Care Of Me’ is at once a pisstake of his life and what people expect of him, and an alarmingly honest/serious statement. He’s playfully deprecating on the menaching ‘Get Up And Get Out’, and he’s accompanied by Bowie and Simple Minds on the temporary relief of ‘Play It Safe’. ‘I’m A Conservative’ is too ambiguous for comfort but it’s also a return to Ig The Idiot.
‘Dog Food’ is a joke. ‘I Need More’ is self-explanatory and again menacing and ‘Knocking ‘Em Down’ could almost be The Troggs or Pretty Things circa ’65. ‘Mr Dynamite’ goes for eclecticism: rolling piano, heavy accent on drums and even a horn section, while we fade to the sounds of ‘I Snub You’, a vitriolic but humorous put-down which Dylan probably wishes he could have written. One question remains: who is this aimed at?
The sound mix is a little dull, but not to worry. The Pop has assembled one of the best ever damn bands of his ‘career’: Ivan Kraal guitar (ex-Patti Smith), Glen Matlock bass (ex-Pistol and Rich Kid), Steve New lead guitar (ex-Rich Kids), Klaus Kruger drums (ex-Tangerine Dream!) and Barry Andrews keyboards (ex-XTC.)
Iggy Pop, this is your decade. 8/10
Gregory Isaacs – Slum In Dub (Serengeti/Jayrem)
A lesson in simplicity where rhythm and the way it’s mixed are totally telling on the result, the Isaacs’ voice doesn’t feature prominently, but that’s the price you pay for an exemplary lesson in the art of dub soundwaves. Fundamentally impressive local release of a much sought-after Jamaican item. 8/10
The Isley Brothers – Winner Takes All (Epic)
Perennials the Isley Brothers, who at one time included a fledgeling guitarist by the name of Jimi Hendrix in their lineup, excel in funky soul on a double album, Winner Takes All. 7/10
The acceptable face of disco rears its head on Instant Funk, as the name suggests a maniacally funky album bringing to mind a cross-pollination of George Clinton’s infamous Parliament/Funkadelic conglomeration, as well as uh… Village People.
Masterminded by one Bundino Siggalucci, this one’s for those who like their funk thick and creamy (‘Don’t You Wanna Party’), and with bizarre/comical interjections thrown in every-which-way (‘Dark Vader’). 6/10