Iggy Pop, an icon of rock's self-destructive impulses, turned 50 a couple years ago, the sort of irony few would have predicted during Pop's days with The Stooges, or during his tumultuous, Bowie-affiliated '70s solo career. Less mind-blowing, although by no means embarrassing, is Avenue B, the album Pop made to deal with the subject of reaching the half-century mark. Produced by Don Was, the man behind Pop's most successful post-heyday solo album (1990's Brick By Brick), Avenue B is a relatively mellow, self-reflective effort that finds Pop doing more crooning than shouting as he looks back on lost time and discarded love. The presence of hippie-jazzbo favorite Medeski Martin & Wood and the lines, "Strangely, I became more bookish / and my home and study meant more to me / as I considered the circumstances of my death" (from the spoken-word album-opener "No Shit"), pretty much indicate where Pop is coming from here. Still, while the balladry of the title track, "Miss Argentina," and "Motorcycle" may not immediately seem like the musical descendants of "Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell," Pop still makes for a seriously strange love man. Lines like "She's a fucking Picasso in bed" (from "Motorcycle") and the song "Nazi Girlfriend" should raise some eyebrows, while a remake of Johnny Kidd & The Pirates' rockabilly classic "Shakin' All Over" suggests that Pop refrains from cutting loose only because he doesn't want to, not because he can't. It's not likely to gain Pop any new fans, and it will likely alienate a few of his old ones, but Avenue B shouldn't disappoint those looking for a snapshot of a rock icon unexpectedly entering his sixth decade with dignity.
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