Produced by Hal Cragin
Release date: June 2, 2009
For over 40 years, James Newell Osterberg, Jr. has shrieked, crowd surfed and wriggled his wiry, leathery torso for our entertainment. His music is often ahead of its time, even providing a catalyst for at least one significant music genre and his influence continues to shape the music of his contemporaries. Iggy Pop has not released a studio album since 2003’s electrifying Skull Ring but now the ‘godfather of punk’ is back withâ€¦a jazz album? Quite frankly, PrÃ©liminaires is nothing like I expected.
The album opens with a French jazz song from the 1940s. “Les feuilles mortes” sounds like ‘Whats Going On’ by Marvin Gaye over Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Je t’aime… moi non plus’ with Iggy performing the vocals in spoken French. Unfortunately the language of love sounds a little like the language of the creepy old man as he talks his way through it.
What at first listen sounds like the creepy old man in English, “I Want To Go To The Beach” is actually beautifully melancholic. Iggy sounds great with a big band orchestra which he uses to great effect on the swaggering “King Of The Dogs” and this is one of the best tracks on the album.
There are no examples of the yelling Iggy Pop in full flow, his vocal deliveries are soft and concise in a measured baritone. In fact it is only on “Nice To Be Dead” and “He’s Dead, She’s Alive” where he actually comes close to singing (the Iggy Pop way). “Nice To Be Dead” is The Stooges era Iggy; angry vocals with rowdy guitars. This feels like Iggy giving in to himself and putting one punk song on there and surprisingly, it fits in quite well. “He’s Dead, She’s Alive” is a raw, unpolished, beautiful blues track which takes the same guitar riff from “She’s A Business” and “Je Sais Que Tu Sais” but stripped down; performed just Iggy and the guitar. The obvious comparison is Seasick Steve’s album Doghouse Music but there is also a similarity in the cavernous sound to Nirvana’s ‘Something In The Way’ (before the drums kick in).
“Je Sais Que Tu Sais” and “She’s A Business” are the same with their pounding drums and bluesy acoustic guitar riffs. The only difference being a French female singer on “Je Saisâ€¦” That might sound lazy, having a reprise and three songs that have the same guitar piece, but that is not the case. “Les feuilles mortes” is the ideal way in to the album and also the perfect way to end it. The guitar piece is a thread that carries you through. These make the album work as a single piece of music, not as a collection of singles. “Je Sais Que Tu Sais” is the best track on the album and encompasses the whole design for it; it’s rock, it’s blues, it’s jazz and its, er, French.
PrÃ©liminaires is based on the French language novel La PossibilitÃ© d’une Ã®le by Michel Houellebecq. Despite all of its different influences (or, maybe, because of), this album works. Maybe it was because it was so different from what I expected to hear from Iggy Pop that it forced me to listen more intently out of astonishment and curiosity. It may not be his best album, but its certainly his most diverse and possibly most coherent.
The idea of punk is to go against the grain, to challenge the establishment. The ‘godfather of punk’ has released a jazzy, bluesy, big band album; it’s laid back, thoughtful, considered and daring. I guess that makes it the most punk album this year.