Iggy Pop has created a thing of dark beauty, and christened it Avenue B . Largely a moody an elegant record, Avenue B creates a warm, low key atmosphere. It sounds like late night in downtown New York after the rain — dark, quiet, and calm, yet alive with possibilities. Nowhere is this more evident than the gorgeous title track, on which Medeski Martin + Wood lay down a dark, jazzy groove over which Iggy’s crooning creates a distinctly urban setting. These slow, atmospheric tunes are the album’s strong points — like the low-key, jangly guitar (ala the Church) and stark, tribal percussion of “Miss Argentina” (which contains the album’s best lyrical couplet in “She likes the military and the Rolling Stones/Her little brother has a T-shirt from Ramones”). “Nazi Girlfriend” is menacing and slightly sinister, as the title implies, yet lush and moody. The second Medeski Martin + Wood number is another winner — “I Felt the Luxury” (co-written by MMW) feels like a lost moment from the Beat Generation, with Iggy’s long spoken monologue rambling Kerouac-like over a captivating jazz backdrop. Several other spoken word pieces accent the record, providing casual interludes between the songs. The only missteps here are the few hard rockers. I know they’re what Iggy’s best known for, and while most of them are good tunes (particularly “Corruption”), they really break up the mood of the work. This goes doubly for “Espanol,” oddly the third and final MMW collaboration, which stands out like a sore thumb. Overall, though, it’s a brilliant, beautiful record that I can’t get enough of. Highly recommended — Iggy’s still got it!
Virgin Records, 1790 Broadway, New York, NY 10019-1412; http://www.virginrecords.com