Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Iggy Pop – Préliminaires (2009)

It seems odd that, despite Iggy Pop’s prominence and importance in the musical landscape, his breathtaking new album has arrived with little fanfare or critical attention. I couldn’t buy it, for example, from any of the mainstream music retailers and it hasn’t featured in any music of 2009 roundup that I’ve come across. But perhaps this only adds to its subtle charms.

Pop – both his work with the Stooges and his solo output – is clearly a hugely influential musician, but one who, for me personally, hasn’t been central, with the exception of his album The Idiot (1977), a work far ahead of its time. But Préliminaires changes all that – and changes what we can expect from Iggy. The menace and sexuality that characterises his work are still present, but here they are sublimated, swathed in a world-weary, self-deprecating and sophisticated atmosphere which is still, paradoxically, raw. The influences here are French chanson, orchestral lounge and jazz, cabaret and touches of electronica, and this combination, combined with Iggy’s guttural delivery and deeply original lyrics, creates a completely unified album (purposefully belying its title in a stroke of characteristic irony) which is an unlikely departure and a stunning success.

The album (with cover art by Marjane Satrapi of Persepolis fame), is loosely based around Michel Houellebecq’s novel The Possibility of an Island, but, to my taste at least, outshines its progenitor, exploring in more intelligible ways not only the themes mentioned below, but the concept of reproduceability in the age of (post)industrial capitalism. Another point of reference for me would be the eroticised biomechanical criminal underworlds of William Burroughs – and the other aspect of this album which is in tune with the sensibility of a Burroughs (in works such as Queer) or Hubert Selby Jr. is the vein of melancholy which runs through it, particularly manifest in the covers of 'Les Feuilles Mortes' (known in English as ‘Autumn Leaves’) and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s 'How Insensitive,' memorably sung by Astrud Gilberto (among many others). The raw side of Pop remains in evidence on tracks like 'King of the Dogs' – the figure of the dog being another theme, stemming from Houellebecq’s work. As with that work, Pop is evidently engaging with the themes of aging and mortality, their relation to emotion, physicality and sensuality, but where I usually find that exploration of these issues produces work which is deeply banal in artists who have otherwise been known for imagination, in Pop’s case I venture to say that the reverse is true. One can only hope that this deeply original album is truly a preliminary…

No comments:

Post a Comment