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Avenue B lyrics
Avenue B (1999)

James "Iggy" Osterberg's last album of the second millennium is at once confounding, yet immensely compelling. The Godfather of Punk once again largely eschews the anarchic sturm und drang upon which he built his legend to pick up the strangely warm (for him), often nakedly introspective thread that runs from Zombie Birdhouse through Brick by Brick. As on the latter, Iggy has entrusted his reflections to producer and hired gun to the stars Don Was. To both their credits, the result is fresh, textured, and surprising. There are no less than four soul-baring monologues on which Ig's resonant baritone is set against the sort of brooding orchestral backdrop that composer Howard Shore might provide for one of David Cronenberg's more effective nightmares. There are other quirky surprises here: the effective use of Blue Note jazz trio Medeski Martin & Wood and a convincing '50s rock-crooner take on Johnny Kidd & the Pirates' chestnut "Shakin' All Over." Yet Iggy's epic, multihued sardonicism remains gratefully intact, as witnessed by the edgy hilarity of "Nazi Girlfriend," the disquieting "Miss Argentina," and the seemingly tongue-in-cheek Latin loopiness of "Ya Yo Habla Espanol." This is not solely a reflection on the break-up of his decade-long marriage, but rather a complex, uneasy meditation on aging, solitude, corruption, and one wide-eyed soul's place in the world. None of it has yet killed him, and we're all the stronger for it. If it's an album more in tune with Sinatra's In the Wee Small Hours than anything Ig's godchildren have managed in a decade, just soak it up. The man's taste is impeccable. --Jerry McCulley

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