David Bowie and Iggy Pop

Hours, and Avenue B (Virgin)

David Bowie

Hours (Virgin)

Iggy Pop

Avenue B (Virgin)

Iggy and Ziggy, masters of space and time in truly remarkable ways, offer their fin de siecle albums as confessions of the soul. Like fellow punk schoolmates Blondie's No Exit and the Pretenders' Viva Amor!, these are statements of introspection saying goodbye to the millennium that spawned them in a time where it could only happen once. Bowie is the avatar of style, a musical chameleon with a chaotic heart and for Hours, his 23rd album, he presents as perfect an album as he has recorded. As if from the Seventies, songs like opener "Thursday's Child" glide across an anthemic Beatles/Oasis plane with an innocent grace. As always, he offers the ballads ("Seven") and a soft, synthy drone ("Something in the Air," "Survive") more than the rockers (the Cars-like crash of "The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell"), but in the end, listening to a Bowie album is akin to consulting an oracle. Where do you go from here? The visionary edge on the album's last cut, "The Dreamers," is his only clue to direction: "So it goes, just a searcher/lonely soul, the last of the dreamers." The words are cold and bleak, but so is Bowie's vision. Iggy Pop's Avenue B is notable if only for the notion of an aging male rocker, burned by the intimacy of romance, seeking meaningful companionship and a little solace. That's how the beta-male side of Iggy is manifested today. It used to wear makeup and cross-dress with hetero glee and is now thoughtful and even nostalgic. This attitude is also proof of Iggy's raging desire to make music, one that has not abated in over 30 years. He walks the streets of Avenue B with the spectre of age-appropriate peers Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits ("Miss Argentina," "Nazi Girlfriend"), but his ever-present adolescent swagger accompanies a raised middle finger ("Corruption," "Shakin' All Over"). He's one of the few who can pull off the middle-age rebel believably, if only to remind fans that there's more to Iggy Pop than a sinewy bag of bones undulating one more time to "Lust for Life."

(Both) **.5 -- Margaret Moser

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