Album review: Iggy Pop – ‘Preliminaires’

The ultimate punk goes all French jazz on us, but, bizarrely, c’est magnifique!

God rest the soul of dear Ron Asheton, but in truth the last Stooges album, ‘The Weirdness’, was no masterpiece. Buoyed nonetheless by the goodwill of anyone with even the slightest interest in rock’n’roll, it was a collection of serviceably sleazy riffs, over which Iggy howled stuff like, “My idea of fun!/Is killing everyone!” And fun it was, for certain. But fun of the ‘harmless’ variety, which was never really the point.

Now though, for his latest solo offering, the Godfather of all things punk has decided to reprise a much more appealing bit of his past, glimpsed on half of ’77’s ‘The Idiot’ and ’99’s rubbish-but-mad ‘Avenue B’: namely eccentric Ig. “A jazz album based on French author Michel Houellebecq’s novel The Possibility Of An Island”, you say? That’s more like it.

And so instead of more re-writes of ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, we get a New Orleans swing number entitled ‘King Of The Dogs’ (“I got a piece of meat/In between my teeth”), and Iggy purring away in French on Louis Armstrong-esque, er, numbers such as ‘Les Feuilles Mortes’ (a ’40s standard, translating as ‘The Dead Leaves’) and ‘Je Sais Que Tu Sais’. Elements of this music have infiltrated his work in the past, of course (notably on the saxophone blasts of ‘Funhouse’), but ‘Préliminaires’ – translating as ‘foreplay’ – contains more than just elements.

There are touches of modern, electronic production, but, in the main it is straight, slow-ballad jazz. At first it sounds completely bonkers, but repeated listens reveal Iggy’s character to be strangely suited to this style of music. A little like a cross between Glenn Miller, Tom Waits and Serge Gainsbourg, he injects ‘I Want To Go To The Beach’ and ‘A Machine For Loving’ with his own inimitable brand of sleaze. Only on ‘Nice To Be Dead’ does he veer into heavy guitar territory, but it fits seamlessly into the mix, making for not just his strangest set in years, but also his best. There’s a tendency, what with Iggy being such a punk institution, to sometimes overlook his shortcomings, but that’s just not necessary here.

“I just got sick of listening to idiot thugs with guitars banging out crappy music,” he claims of his inspiration.

Us too, Ig. Now if his legions of lame, self-conciously cool leather-jacketed imitators could take note of this attitude, that would be great. Come on guys: make a jazz album, do an insurance advert, whatever…

Hamish MacBain

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