These recordings put Pop back on the music map just as the growing importance of the punk and new-wave movements established him as a innovator. However, this designation did not prevent his subsequent recordings from ranging wildly in quality. He made three not-very-good discs for Arista, one quixotic, frequently laughable one (1982's Zombie Birdhouse) for the ill-fated Animal imprint, and two more uneven platters for A&M. If not for a new deal with Virgin Records and a pair of moderately successful singles ("Something Wild" and "Candy," the latter a duet with the B-52s' Kate Pierson), Pop currently might be little more than a trivia question. Instead, thanks to American Caesar, he's in the middle of a career renaissance. The album perfectly encapsulates all that's good about Pop; it features musically raucous punk ("Wild America," "Hate"), lyrical nakedness ("Jealousy," "Fuckin' Alone"), inspired lunacy ("Caesar," a twisted rewrite of "Louie Louie") and, on "Mixin' the Colors," an upbeat salute to the trend toward mixed marriages. Pop points to the latter when countering those observers who've pegged him as a nihilist.

"The people who have grafted words like `nihilist' on rock and roll are the people who didn't like rock and roll in the first place," he says. "I mean, can you picture someone going to a Gene Vincent gig and saying, `Man, that tune was pretty nihilistic'? Or someone telling Chuck Berry, `Hey, Chuck, I think Johnny B. Goode must have been a pretty nihilistic guy, because he just liked to sit by the railroad tracks, and he never did anything for himself until his mother told him to'? There's a whole fake-positive side to rock and roll now that is completely destructive. It cheapens the issues it pretends to uphold, and it depresses people who know they're being lied to. That's why, if I do one thing, I tell the truth."
Not that Iggy is perfect. In responding to a recent letter from a 23-year-old woman who was wondering if she should quit her soul-draining job because of her hypocritical co-workers, Pop says, "I told her that I'm in show business, and some of my standards aren't as high as they might appear. About half the time I push to meet my standards, and the other half I sit back and laugh at how ridiculous it is for me to impose these standards on myself anyway. So I told her to push a little and give a little." He laughs before adding, "And don't quit your day job."

Pop is taking his own advice, but he's also branching out. In addition to writing music, he's also freelancing articles for publications such as Details and Interview. "And I wrote an advice column for Sassy," he says. "So maybe I should be glad I'm getting all these letters. It's good practice."

Iggy Pop, with Chainsaw Kittens. 8 p.m. Thursday, March 10, Ogden Theatre, 935 East Colfax, $18.50, 290-TIXS or 830-2525.

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