Iggy’s most underrated album helped him get back to real life.
Martin Aston 2010-11-29
Angst, alongside necessity, is typically the mother of invention, but in too many cases, those artists deemed to live on the edge were only suffering from a bad hangover. Iggy Pop, however, began recording these songs while on day release from the Neuropsychiatric Ward of UCLA.
It was Iggy’s decision at least. He may have been a depleted, suicidal heroin addict after the release of Raw Power in 1973, but he wasn’t insane. And what became Kill City (recorded in 1975, released in 1977) never resembled the work of a man seceding responsibility to his new medication. In fact, this is his most underrated album (true, partly because it’s never been on CD before). In its rough snapshot of personal disarray (he’d yet to work with David Bowie, though his would-be saviour did visit him in hospital) tied to a more R&B-raunchy trajectory than The Stooges’ garage-punk meltdown – in partnership with latter-day Stooges guitarist James Williamson – Kill City stands alone in his canon. Now that it’s been re-mastered and remixed, it should get its just reward.
The bristling title-track immediately sets the standard: "I live here in Kill City where the debris meets the sea / It’s the playground of the rich, but it’s a loaded gun to me," snarls Iggy, before the great pay-off, "But if I have to die here first / Then I’m gonna make some noise" while Williamson stabs out a swaggering riff. Classic punk resistance to the decadent LA lifestyle follows in Beyond the Law and I Got Nothin’, but the album showed signs of evolution. With crooned harmonies, woozy sax and a louche mood, Sell Your Love imbibes the black soul of Iggy’s home city of Detroit rather than its metal; it sounds more Stones than Stooges. On a similar tack, I Got Nothin’ (one of two Stooges leftovers) resembled the Stones aping Dylan’s Knocking on Heaven’s Door. The other oldie, Johanna, was smeared by Harden’s bleating sax, which showed distinct shades of David Sanborn circa Bowie’s Young Americans, being recorded on the other coast.
Kill City’s original side two is patchier, though the instrumental Master Charge has a strange, sad beauty, like Iggy’s lost and wandering New Orleans’ streets at 3am. The stunning, bruised ballad No Sense of Crime, however, beats the Stones at their own dissolute game. It’s this brew of bravado, vulnerability and crisis that lends Kill City a palpable edge and helped get Iggy back into the studio and real life, beyond those hospital walls.