Uh oh, the social responsibility taskforce has been unleashed from Pitchfork headquarters and is chasing after the wrong beasts again. Unlike the Fork Puritan’s recent head scratching run at completely harmless folkies Luluc, however, this one seems more inevitable. After all, it was only a matter of time until the once-deified ‘70s liberals who dealt in artistic expression and sexual revolution would be rounded up and re-classified as 3rd degree Trumps ready for their inquisition moment. It would seem that a true black magician such as Jimmy Page or a proudly non-PC oldschool hag of the Keith Richards variety (Keef does get name checked in this review, so get ready Mistah’ Richards) would be first up, but instead the taskforce has decided to take a run at everyone’s fave shirtless, veiny grandpa Iggy Pop. We have to hand it to them on this one. It’s a risky move that only puts them one degree away from Fork darlings like David Bowie, Prince, and Serge Gainsbourg. So although the Taskforce’s base accusations are always achingly predictable, their targets are scattered and reckless.
Which is where the new Iggy Pop/Underworld EP comes into play. Yes, we do have an unabashed modern libertine talk-singing about picking up flight attendants over beats made by prime decadent rave era EDM superstars for the soundtrack to the sequel of a filthy, violent, heroin-drenched film that was massively popular at the time but would never make it off the ground today, all prime ingredients for a super-woke Pitchfork hit piece, but come on now. You don’t even have to listen to the EP to know that Iggy is just fucking around here, tossing off jaded ad-libs straight from his id in hopes for a quick cash-in. Any balanced reader can decipher this fact between the lines of this relentlessly humor-free, airless, chastising moral bludgeon of a review. Yes, Pitchfork Media has become the hand-wringing, out-of-touch parents of music sites. And it’s time to slam our bedroom doors on them.
Iggy, from the sounds of it, is still alive and feral even though he most likely has many decades on Daniel Martin-McCormick, the “parent” given the task of opening up a big can of wokeness on Mr. Ig and the Underworlds in this review. He gets right to the point by missing the point completely in the opening paragraph. In analyzing the Iggy line: “It’s getting harder to be free/It’s getting so much harder to be me” as thus: “The first line might be on the money, but the second reduces his message to one of solipsistic whining”, Martin-McCormick doesn’t seem to get that Iggy is singing directly to him with that reviled second line. All the guy wants to do is toss off a few lines about doing lines on an airplane in the 70s and chatting up the stewardesses. But the wily old man is smart enough to know that this type of humor is way out of fashion with an uptight bore of the Martin-McCormick caliber. He knew that this line would draw ire in the newly stodgy music press, and it made Iggy sad. It is getting harder to be someone like Iggy Pop, which makes the line ring ever so true. There’s a real reason this line was singled out for microscopic attention in the first paragraph of the review even though the reviewer most likely didn’t realize it, a lone reason it stung so hard. It reveals that the real solipsistic whiner in the room is Daniel Martin-McCormick.
The review then takes another wrong turn, only this time onto the increasingly familiar rocky baby boomer bashing backroads that often lead nowhere. Just like with any generation, there’s a whole hell of a lot that you can bash the Touch Of Greys for, but the only person “grumbling about the state of the world” in this particular scenario is once again Martin-McCormick. He chastises Iggy, Keith, and, um, George Clinton for flaunting their “imperviousness to consequences”, seemingly forgetting that all three lives and bodies have been marked by great and admitted tragedies, dead homeys, busted relationships, and litanies of documented regrets. What rock survivors such as these are flaunting is a steely resolve to keep going in the face of these often self-inflicted tragedies and losses and the onset of old age, and most importantly to stay true to their artistic vision even if said vision should fall temporarily or permanently out of fashion. The type of button-pushing, untamable art The Iggster spews forth is most certainly way out of fashion with someone like Daniel Martin-McCormick, so what this jaded old baby boomer is truly grumbling about here is the state of his reviewer.
If swinging and missing on lyrical interpretations were an artform, Martin-McCormick would be Jackson Fucking Pollock. After that massive fail in the first paragraph, dude should certainly have learned his lesson. But no, he chooses to base the entire structure of the review around a misinterpretation of a cluster of lyrics from opening track “Bells And Circles”. The line from the offending verse that really seems to have irked Martin-McCormick the worst is this: “Nobody wants you to be able to do the things that make you feel good”. While this bit of lyric would have been celebrated in 1972 and tolerated right up until late 2016, it is now seen by people like Daniel Martin-McCormick as a little thing called “entitlement”, a card that can be pulled out to instantly shut down literally any type of art project. After all, anyone is entitled to take a crack at making music, writing a poem, or putting together a found objects collage, but very few dare to go forth against the considerable odds of failure. James Osterberg, born and raised in a Michigan trailer park, a college dropout and junkie outcast with no discernible vocal skills or music industry connections, whose first band was a failure and only managed to inch his way into the popular consciousness through the charity of some famous admirers, finally achieves a type of weathered old sage success in his 60s and 70s, only for Daniel Martin-McCormick to convict him of “hopelessly skewed entitlement” because he “hasn’t worked a day job since the ‘60s”. Well, we’re sorry Iggy hasn’t toiled with you deep in the coal mines all these years just to put Top Ramen on the table for your respective families, Daniel, but we really don’t think this particular line reeks of entitlement. If anything, Iggy is decrying the tightening of the rope that people like you instill on artists, not allowing them to have a single ounce of fun without wagging your fingers at them and telling them to get back in line. What makes Iggy feel good is being able to toss off bizarre one-liners that aren’t necessarily meant to be taken seriously. In taking them so seriously, you’re slowly draining the arts of all color and blurred edges. Again, Iggy is singing to you.
And then there’s this little paragraph that we’ll just leave right here in its entirety so that it can really soak in:
“Later he bemoans a character named Johnny for getting a mortgage, thereby killing his inner child. At a time when the middle class is reaching its nadir and basic services like health care and education are cripplingly unaffordable for many Americans, stale critiques of a dated bourgeoisie are callously out of touch.”
Where do we even start on this one? By pointing out that Iggy Pop is not now, and has never been, Billy Bragg or Public Enemy? By making the claim that not every scrap of lyric should be read as social commentary or as a contemporary reference to various headlines? By chancing that perhaps Iggy really does have a friend named Johnny who really has gotten kind of lame and bougie ever since he took on a mortgage that he couldn’t afford? By offering that artists are actually “entitled” to throw out unpopular opinions that go against the grain of current societal lines of thought in order to question those thought lines or simply to instigate and rile up people like Daniel Martin-McCormick? There’s so many “ins” to savage this paragraph that we’re not even going to savage it. It’s just too easy.
It only makes sense that Martin-McCormick would wrap up this mind-boggling hit piece with a Freud quote: “Where id is, there shall ego be,” and tie it in with the kiss-off: “It takes a lot of ego to make a record as dull and demanding as Teatime.” It’s already obvious that Martin-McCormick was never fated to be an Iggy Pop fan. This is an artist who has nearly always shot straight from the id, coupling serious-sounding lines with nonsensical toss-offs, and it’s just about enough to send Martin-McCormick right off the deep end. The lyric that’s getting into his craw here is this: “Not a hair shirt! A fun fair shirt!” Anyone tossing off Freud quotes in an attempt to steel themselves against the “ego” of this line should definitely take a little breather.
What Daniel Martin-McCormick really means when he brings up “ego” is this: Iggy Pop is not a terrified, social media courting artist angling for op-ed column space. This is an oldschool rule-breaker still managing to limp along on the precipice between vibrant art and abject hedonism, blurring the lines between the two, wielding them both in consistently fascinating ways. And we, for one, are thankful that the man still feels entitled to do so.