The world "seminal" is used over and over again in the hefty press kit that accompanies Skull Ring, the latest album from Iggy Pop. And rightfully so: The 56-year-old musician, who formed his groundbreaking group the Stooges in Detroit in 1967, has gone on to define punk rock, postpunk, garage rock, and underground rock. His taut, shirtless torso; wiry, suggestive stage posturing; and classic, yet impossible to replicate frontman moves have become as familiar a sight to rockers as McDonald's golden arches. His 1977 "Lust For Life" anthem is ubiquitous, a theme song for the dark film Trainspotting, as well as the upbeat jingle for the family-oriented Royal Caribbean cruise ships.
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Two years after his last solo release, Beat 'Em Up, and 30 years since his last effort with the Stooges, Raw Power, Pop reunites with the latter's founding members, brothers Ron (guitar) and Scott Asheton (drums), for Skull Ring. The original Stooges' presence, however, is restricted to just four songs: "Little Electric Chair," "Skull Rings," "Loser," and "Dead Rock Star." If anything, attention is directed toward Pop's other, more famous collaborators: Green Day (on the rockabilly "Private Hell" and hyperactive "Supermarket"), Sum 41 (on the melodic, radio-friendly "Little Know It All"), and Peaches (on the raw "Motor Inn" and inane "Rock Show"). The rest of the sixteen tracks (plus one hidden number) are recorded with his regular back-up group, the Trolls, and produced by himself.
Pop's tightly coiled energy springs right through the speakers with an intensity that puts to shame any of his hometown contemporaries, whether it be the White Stripes or Eminem. His extremist persona is felt through highly charged tunes such as the fast-paced roller "Blood On My Cool," as well as mellower, more thoughtful songs like the bluesy "Till Wrong Feels Right." Although Skull Ring is representative of the better power rock sounds coming out today, it isn't as trailblazing as Pop's earlier work with the Stooges. But it doesn't have to be. He has made his mark, and it is indelible. Every few years a new solo release proves that he is not dead yet; that he is still relevant, even if marginally so; and that he is deserving of his iconic status and continues to be a seminal figure in rock music.