Standing Over By The Record Machine: Iggy Pop reaches deep and pulls out a rock ‘n’ roll classic in Every Loser.
Punk’s absolute father channels both The Stooges and his Bowie-produced Berlin records with Duff McKagan, Chad Smith, and others. Plus: Radio Birdman's Chris "Klondike" Masuak pens his memoirs.
Iggy baptizes the faithful: “Well, nanny nanny boo boo to you, too!”
Greetings. I know I promised this last week, but I frequently have ambitions beyond what I can deliver. I’m finding I need to be easier on myself in COVID’s wake. I still have some artifacts in my system, including decreased energy levels which mean I am incapable of tapping out as many words per day as is my normal goal, being 1500 words/day. That I can get up to 900 words before I have to collapse is pretty good, considering. But I am typing these words two days before most of you are reading them, after a healthy Austin Chronicle check enabled me to invest in loads of vitamins and some good coffee. That brew and liquid B complex have worked wonders in getting my energy levels back up.
Still, due to the interruptions, I am extending the 70% discounted year’s subscription offer until Friday. Take advantage – you can’t find a better deal than 12 months behind the paywall for $27! So, click all this mess here! You know you finally wanna read that Keith Morris interview, don’t ya?
IGGY POP – Every Loser (Gold Tooth/Atlantic Records) LP
“Got a dick an’ 2 balls/That’s more than you all!” Politically incorrect to the bone and unrepentant, these are the first two lines you hear after a blast of Stooges-esque guitar, including a dose of satisfying amplifier hum. Welcome to Every Loser, Iggy Pop’s 19th studio album, and first in four years, interestingly released on January 6th. But this is good. Now that date can signify something positive.
Most heartening is that punk’s 75-year-old founding father chose to release a balls-out rock ‘n’ roll record, something he really hasn’t done since Iggy And the Stooges’ 2013 swansong Ready To Die. That is, unless you count 2016’s throwback to his David Bowie-produced solo work, Post Pop Depression. This, after a few Iggy albums seemingly aimed at recasting him as a cabaret crooner. It’s good to hear the man rock in his brilliantly unhinged manner once more.
Interestingly, producer Andrew Watt seems to have perched this as a cross between the Stooges’ kamikaze protopunk and the more subtle futurism of The Idiot and Lust For Life. So you get diving-face-first-into-the-third-row Stooge-rockers like “Frenzy” (that “dick an’ 2 balls” opener) and “Modern Day Rip-Off” alternated with atmospheric Euro-rockers such as “New Atlantis” and “Morning Show.” Although final cut “The Regency” combines the two modes, with nuanced verses alternating with a bashed-out chorus: “FUCK THE REGENCY! FUCK THE REGENCY! FUCK THE REGENCY UP!” Which makes for an epic set closer.
Watt hand-crafted these individual tracks for Iggy, expecting him to add lyrics and vocal melodies over the course of several months, with no pressure or deadlines to meet. Interestingly, like many a modern pop record (which Watt has made a name on), the songwriting is credited to everyone who played on each track, the sorta songwriting-by-committee old curmudgeons bitch about when any music biz awards show hands out Song Of The Year trophies to 16 people. That these are varying groups of four or five musicians per track cuts down the unwieldiness considerably. The crew consists mostly of musicians Iggy either knows (the late Taylor Hawkins, Dave Navarro, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith) or has worked with before (Duff McKagan). Hence all these individuals know to tailor this music to his wide-ranging aesthetics. They are working for a boss named Iggy Pop, and they deliver.
Iggy delivers, too. Many times in the past, he’s stood before a mic in the studio and improvised his lyrics. Sometimes, it works brilliantly. As consistent as these words and vocals hit the ear, it’s obvious they’re as finely wrought as the musical beds. It probably helps that he’s pondering some substantial subject matter, whether it’s the echoes of his long-gone junkie days reprised in “Strung-Out Johnny” or the mockery of modern day stock-portfolios-and-swimming-pools “punk rockers” in “Neo-Punk” (hilariously featuring the drumming of that bunch’s poster boy, Travis Barker).
Even Iggy confessed that he didn’t think he had another nitro-burning rock ‘n’ roll album left in him at age 75. So to get as solid an album as Every Loser out of him is an absolute joy. Thanks, Iggy!
Reading Is Fundamental: Chris “Klondike” Masuak’s memoir is as cool and idiosyncratic as his songwriting and guitar work
Radio Birdman member’s account follows no linear timeline, names no names.
CHRIS MASUAK – Faith And Practice In Bedlam (2022, www.highvoltagepublishing.com, Australia, 149 pages)
June 24, 2007: Radio Birdman, the band who established 1969 Detroit as the capital of Australia, pulled into the front room of the old Emo’s and transformed it into the Oxford Funhouse for a night. We mostly stood, mouths agape as singer Rob Younger went through his catalog of 1965 Mick Jagger moves, and leader/lead guitarist Deniz Tek and the rest of the band bore down, working through such time-tested anthems as “New Race” with a heads-down ferocity those of us who knew likened to Black Flag in their prime. There was just a commitment to The Riff few ever displayed. Come set’s end, we were a frothing-at-the-mouth, rabid, single-cell organism.
But yeah, “heads-down.” Except second guitarist Chris “Klondike” Masuak.
His lank blond locks now shorn, he wielded his Firebird with a far more casual, aw-shucks air than Tek, who was all brooding intensity. Klondike was having fun.
Most impressively, he never looked once at his fretboard.
He looked everywhere else – the ceiling, the speaker stacks, the bar, some point at the back. But never at his hands.
And he did not miss a note.
What’s more, he may have been the only player on that stage who never needed to tune his guitar. Ever.
That was the moment Chris “Klondike” Masuak became my favorite member of Radio Birdman, forever and ever. Amen.
It is no wonder that when Klondike finally fires up a word processor and taps out a memoir, it comes out with that same devil-may-care insouciance which informed his guitar work and performance that night. Arranged as a set of 145 brief stories rarely lasting more than one page, Faith And Practice In Bedlam follows no chronological order, seemingly written just as an anecdote occurred to him.
“I think that comes from writing lyrics,” he muses in Bedlam’s preface, “trying to get things across in a limited format. I figure that if I don’t push so hard the stories will tell themselves. And, if one is not in control, one is out of control. I am a firm advocate of gentle careering.”
What becomes clear, as he gently careers all over his own history, is that Klondike really did not enjoy his time in Radio Birdman. Which is what many of us especially want to know about. Though he never identifies the band or its members by name (“I realize I’m understating somewhat at times,” he admits, “but I think the point of the stories is inferred and the reader will naturally fill in the gaps”), he paints a picture of dysfunction and enmity primarily focussed on himself.
“I no longer looked to the band for inspiration as I had in the past,” he writes 137 pages into the book. “The singer, whose inarticulate and incomprehensible mumblings constituted his relationship with the audience, would glare at me hatefully and occasionally lean over and remind me how much he hated my playing….The other guitarist responded by stepping forward to claim the music that could not possibly be emanating from him….They could and still did try to wound me personally and emotionally, but if they thought they could touch me musically they were dreaming!”
Yet he claims in that preface that he attempted to find “some positive examples. I don’t want to come off as having sour grapes….But I think some people should be batted off their pedestals.’
The positive stuff, where his sense of humor gets full reign, are in his tales of his Canadian childhood, or when he was a fan of Radio Birdman rather than a member, in his joy at being asked to scrub guitar in his favorite band whilst still a teen. Or in his humorous advice column answers to questions posed to him via the internet, mostly having to do with equipment, or tongue-in-cheek “spiritual” queries. Or in tiny bon mots such as:
“In esoteric terms, a man is defined by his ‘uses.’
I was good for one thing, at the very least.
I was the only one that could pack all of our shit into The Van Of Hate.”
Hence as an author of a rock autobiography, Chris “Klondike” Masuak still looks everywhere in the room except at his fingers or fretboard. And it has made all the difference in Faith And Practice In Bedlam. Get it.
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The Iggy record is awesome. Definitely want to read Klondike's book!