As music is an ever-changing landscape of trends and tastes, each cyclical period will be highlighted by a handful of albums that stand apart from the rest; albums that transcend genre limitations by simply destroying any semblances of competition. It took an aging punk rocker, in his fifth decade of making brutally honest and endearing noise, to strut his way into the final months of 2003 with arguably the year's finest album. Iggy Pop is the undisputed King of Pop, and Skull Ring is his crowning achievement.
Imagine being sucker punched in an alley, then bludgeoned unmercifully for nearly an hour. This is the essence of Iggy's new album, a sonic assault comprised of 16 songs (and a hidden bonus track) that grabs listeners by the throat and does not let up the entire time.
Skull Ring is not merely a testament to Iggy's staying power as an artist, but it is also an amazing feat in that it melds the past, present and future of punk/pop onto a single CD.
Reuniting with his Stooges brethren Ron and Scott Asheton after nearly 30 years has not diminished their original chemistry one whit, and Iggy leads his former band mates as if they'd never been apart. Opening the disc with a flourish, "Little Electric Chair" harkens back to 1973's Raw Power, and sets the tone for Skull Ring's three other Stooges reunion tracks. Of the four, the title cut best shows that Iggy's songwriting and sardonic wit remain as lethal as a straight razor. Set against the backdrop of Asheton's "Peter Gunn" riff, Iggy let's us know his priorities: "Skull rings / Fast cars / Hot chicks / Money". Who could ask for more?
Continuing on his time traveling journey, Iggy shares collaborative stage space with current luminaries Green Day, as well as punk pop whelps Sum 41. The songs "Private Hell" and "Supermarket" incorporate the fast paced signature crunch that Green Day has perfected over the past few years, while the ultra-catchy "Little Know It All" should garner a modicum of credibility for the lightweight Sum 41 team. Iggy is right at home with these nippers, showing the new generation how to do it right.
The album also includes a pair of songs that find Iggy dueling with rap/electronica siren Peaches. "Rock Show" and the uproarious "Motor Inn" feature sufficient amounts of lewd lyrics and acidic guitar chords to peel paint. Once again, Iggy stands tall against a youngster as he deftly counters Peaches' Siouxie Sioux/Kate Pierson wail with his own trademark growl.
A momentary deviation from the album's tone occurs when Iggy indulges in the solo acoustic "Til Wrong Feels Right". Sounding like a modern day Robert Johnson, Iggy's husky vocals resonate with disgust and frustration as he offers his take on the music industry's penchant for pushing garbage: "I took a pounding / From the radio today / I heard the radio say / Some piece of shit/ Was the sound of today". Social commentary or not, the song is a masterpiece of simplicity.
Of the album's tracks, the most electrifying surprises come by way of Iggy's efforts with his band the Trolls. Nothing less than a new millennium Stooges, the trio follows Iggy with abandon, wreaking havoc all along the way. The high octane blast of "Perverts in the Sun" and "Here Comes the Summer" should initiate spontaneous moshing and crowd surfing at every listen, as well as ensuring a worn out CD in very quick time.
How Iggy has survived as long as he has is a miracle, but his ceaseless ability to create at such a high level is astounding. Whatever his recipe for defying the affects of time, Iggy proves that he's still the one on top of the musical mountain. Judging by the brilliance of Skull Ring, he'll remain the King of Pop for as long as he chooses.