Iggy Pop - Free - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Iggy Pop - Free

by Kevin Orton Rating:8 Release Date:2019-09-06
Iggy Pop - Free
Iggy Pop - Free

While the term “Alternative” is often applied to the 80’s, back in the 70’s there were plenty of "Alternative" acts. Of course, they were called “cult artists”. Artists who sold squat but still managed to build a solid following over time. No one epitomizes this more than Iggy Pop and the Stooges. Hard to believe now, but Iggy was the poster boy for Rock & Roll loser. In the end though, he and the Stooges got the last laugh. And out of the holy trinity of Bowie, Lou and Iggy, James Newell Osterberg wasn’t supposed to be the soul-survivor so much as leave the most beautiful corpse. Well, he’s built quite a reputation on defying odds and expectations and here he is at 72 with a new album. Simply entitled, Free.

Question of course is, is it any good? Let’s face it, Iggy can be pretty erratic. And no one’s expecting another Raw Power or Funhouse. Those days are long gone. Along with bopping around Berlin with Bowie. So, the more fitting question is, is this Post Pop Depression Iggy or Avenue B? Préliminaires or Après?

The answer? A little of each. And none of the above.

The opener sounds just like the album cover. Iggy reflectively wading into the ocean just past sunset accompanied by some choice Miles Davis Kind of Blue stylings. The only lyric, “I want to be free.” I know. Yawn. But hang in there Iggy fans. The menacing beat of ‘Loves Missing’ immediately brings The Idiot’s ‘Nightclubbing’ to mind. It's impossible not to be roped in by this one. Muted horns provide ample backing to Iggy’s dark growl. It’s a strong track, enough to make me stand on your coffee table and declare, “Iggy’s back!”

‘Sonali’ is a hypnotic follow up, filled with the sounds of breezy summer and cryptic advice like, “Stay in your lane.” The captivating and funky ‘James Bond’ keeps the volleyball up in the air. The kind of number that gets right under your skin and makes you want to hit the play button again. It also boasts a terrific bit of trumpet work. An instrument that distinctly dominates this long-player. This is due to trumpeter Leron Thomas and guitarist Sarah Lipstate who work under the moniker, Noveller. In fact, they wrote all the music on the album. Which may account for how different this record sounds to what we normally associate with Iggy Pop.

Speaking of trumpets, ‘Dirty Sanchez’ kicks off with a horn solo that brings echoes of Miles’ Sketches of Spain to mind, cut with some Spaghetti Western. All of which comes to end when Iggy jumps in with a snarling rap.  What ensues is a call and response akin to Lust For Life’s  ‘Success’. Only on valium. Iggy tossing out deep thoughts like, “Just because I like big tits doesn’t mean I like big dicks.”  Put into context, he seems to be referring to a pimp. Which might just be a tongue in cheek metaphor for capitalism. Elsewhere, ‘Glow In The Dark’ is a more oblique, atmospheric commentary on certain unhealthy pursuits. “Your sense of community is going to kill you,” he warns before doomy guitars duke it out with an improvising horn.

‘Page’ is up next and finds Iggy in gutter Sinatra mode, meditatively crooning, “Dreary causes, they yield all the applauses”.  And if the reflective mood of ‘We Are The People’ sounds like an unpublished Lou Reed lyric, it is.  Iggy playing at the Beat poet, dishing out Lou bon mots like, “We are the insects of someone else’s thought”.

If that weren’t enough spoken word for you, here comes a dramatic recitation of Dylan Thomas’ classic poem, ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’. While the inclination is to roll one’s eyes, it’s a moody track and Iggy is completely invested in the material. And if that's not enough spoken word for you, wait there’s more. ‘The Dawn’ wades into still waters at sunrise. And here’s where Free drifts off and murmurs to a close.

Hey, let’s face it, Iggy has never been consistent. For my money, Post Pop Depression was Iggy’s strongest release since 1979’s New Values. An undervalued record but one that’s held up remarkably well over the years. I can’t say the same for Blah Blah Blah or Brick By Brick.  While patchy in places, Soldier, Zombie Birdhouse, American Caesar, Préliminaires and Après are all strong releases that deserve wider recognition. In between, its been a steady stream of disappointments and erratic crap shoots. I would not put Free in that box. It has a lot going for it despite diving into the spoken word deep end one too many times. I appreciate where he’s coming from but it’s difficult to summon much enthusiasm for artful poetry readings. That said, the actual songs on this thing are pretty damn good. So, while a little spoken word heavy, I can’t deny that Free has plenty of moments that grab me. I also dig the sunset trumpet vibe going on. It’s not only consistent, it's new sound for the Iggy cannon. In the end, given Iggy’s track record over the years, I’d say 6 out of 10 ain’t bad.  

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet
Related Articles