CD Review – Iggy Pop “Preliminaries”

Artist: Iggy Pop
Album: Preliminaries
Year : 2009
Label: Astralwerks

.5 out of **

The latest from the punk rock God (or Dog, Iggy Pop’s preferred title) claims inspiration from the Michel Houellebecq novel The Possibility of an Island in the liner notes, and even uses a translated passage from the book in the song “A Machine for Loving.” This literary inspiration has caused Iggy to take the surprising detour from guitar-driven rock into jazzier frontiers. You can practically see the cigarette smoke curl around Iggy’s weathered features as he opens the album with a French Jazz standard of the 1940s (“Les Feuilles Mortes”), then proceed to Leonard Cohen-ize his voice into a deep rumble for the better part of the remaining tunes.

The song “King of the Dogs,” with its New Orleans jazz arrangement, makes one think Iggy is straying into the musical territory of his Coffee and Cigarettes cast-mate Tom Waits. The real shame is that Iggy is not quite able to capture Mr. Waits’ sense of perpetual originality as Preliminaries borrows liberally from early European pop, Parisian jazz and late-period Leonard Cohen. Even the song I just used as an example borrows parts of a Louis Armstrong song for its melody.

This combination of influences isn’t a bad thing at all, however. Iggy has fun with this material, like he always does, and has been quoted saying that this album is “his rebellion against the current state of rock and roll.” This is a welcome stance for Iggy to take, rebelling against the things he helped to create in the most laid-back fashion possible. As such, listening to a man who once rolled in broken glass on stage croon in French at such a slow tempo that few contemporary (so-called) punk-rockers would be able to mentally process it, serves as a nice dose of poetic irony.

Iggy’s voice has aged enough that it suits these songs better than it ever could before, and even helps make them more immediately accessible. All in all, it’s a welcome addition to his catalogue.