Release Date: Sep 6, 2019
Record label: Loma Vista
He's a crooner, a showman, a firebrand, an influencer. He's been a leader, a follower, a Stooge. He pledged allegiance to David Bowie when nobody else would, and in return was led to the top of the mountain: their creative collaboration spanned fifteen years, their friendship a lifetime. In 1977 alone, Bowie and Iggy released four of the greatest albums of all time between them: the devilish twins Low and The Idiot, and their riotous Dionysian follow-ups, "Heroes" and Lust For Life.
If you'd been a baker for more than 50 years, you could be forgiven for being sick of the sight of chocolate éclairs. Similarly, a half-century on from the first Stooges album, Iggy Pop has made it clear he's not as in love with rock & roll as he once was. Albums such as 2009's Preliminaires and 2012's Après have found him exploring less aggressive and more thoughtful material, and Iggy continues this trend with 2019's Free.
Iggy's 18th solo album sees the rock'n'roll icon take control of his legacy with a contemplative and liberating collection that unshackles him from his past "Every now and then this voice in me says, 'You're getting too straight, you're getting normal - you need some weird shit." So said Iggy Pop, rock'n'roll's once-menacing son and now elder-statesman, at Mad Cool Festival earlier this summer. It was a more sombre moment of reflection in a set that otherwise celebrated his storied past, from the proto-punk glory of The Stooges' rawest moments to his shape-shifting solo career from the '70s to the modern day. Throughout he’s been always unpredictable and absolutely thrilling.
Iggy Pop once said he likes his music offensive and has certainly spent the better part of his career doing just that. Now as a septuagenarian, the proto punk has made one of the year's most surprising and likable albums in Free: A slinky, jazz infused work, with a dose of poetry, dash of mariachi, held together by his wiry baritone and an astute take on current ills. The 2003 Stooges reunion might have finally given Pop financial solvency but it was 2016's Post Pop Depression and his dalliance with Josh Homme that helped him achieve his highest charting album to date.
It is amazing that considering Iggy Pop has now reached the ripe old age of 72 he manages to remain unpredictable in terms of both expectation and product. Around the time of his 2016 release Post Pop Depression there were huge questions over his future. He had just seen the significant passing of David Bowie, someone who he had worked with, been produced by and written songs for.
"To explain all this needs further explaining," says the godfather of punk on his eighteenth studio album Free, and we're all craning our necks to know what's on his mind. Is he talking about the internet age? How does he feel about politics in 2019? Is there a solution to the ills of modern American society? Does it matter? The rest of the lyrics on 'Glow In The Dark' don't deign to blame anyone in particular for the problems we face, and it looks good on him: "Everyone must play their part in this world/ servants will serve and kings will rule/ pretend we don't know but I bet that you do. " If he's holding any of the solutions to our problems, he must not feel like sharing.
Years ago, the world tacitly accepted there was a line separating Jim Osterberg and his feral creation Iggy Pop. Osterberg devised the street-walking cheetah persona of Iggy Pop as a way to tap into his primal urges, but the idea that he was playing a role only came into focus when he managed to survive to tell tales about his hedonism. At this point, decades after his image softened enough so he could score a Top 40 hit and sell travel tickets on TV, the split personality is so accepted it nearly seems like a cliché: Whether he's on or off stage, he plays the part that's expected.
The Lowdown: "I am nothing but my name," Iggy Pop said stoically through a leather croak on 2016's Post Pop Depression. It was a line delivered with the fatigue that comes with having lived a life defined too long by rock and roll, and by that record's end, it truly sounded like Iggy was done. (Read: Iggy Pop in 10 Songs) But three years later, the Great Stooge is still here.
T he highlights of Iggy Pop's solo career have generally come about when he's been taken under the wing of a big-name collaborator, from Bowie in the 1970s to, more recently, Underworld and Josh Homme, who produced 2016's Post Pop Depression, scoring Iggy his first UK top five album at the age of 68. True to quixotic form, Free doesn't build on the success of that record, Iggy veering off at yet another tangent, courtesy of avant garde guitarist Noveller, aka Sarah Lipstate, and jazz trumpeter Leron Thomas. Thomas's mournful solos are foregrounded throughout, and Noveller's contributions are subtle rather than showy, while Iggy intones instead of singing, recalling Johnny Cash's American albums, which gives the likes of We Are the People and the title track a pleasingly meditative feel.
Iggy Pop has very little left to prove. The 72-year-old is one of rock and roll's true protagonists, a feat which cannot be said of many. 'Free' is the antithesis of rock and roll. Instead, it is a more reflective, darker, weirder body of songs. Opening with 'Free,' there is an instant element of ….