The Listener

Proggery beyond parody: Iggy Pop’s Free reviewed

28 September 2019

9:00 AM

28 September 2019

9:00 AM

Grade: D+

Pleasant memories — of hearing ‘Raw Power’ for the first time and later the amiably shambolic chug of ‘The Passenger’. And of watching my daughter, aged ten, dragged along to some open-air concert where she danced, an ingenue, to ‘Cock In My Pocket’. At least I hope she was an ingenue.

All gone. Iggy has been reconditioned. No longer a mentalist drug fiend from Detroit, which was how we liked him, he is now a godforsaken rock institution for the hip middle-class twats who hated him first time around. James Newell Osterberg Jr is an agreeable interviewee and hosts a decent radio show. But sadly someone has told him he is a sage and a great singer. Both verdicts are miles wide of the mark.

So there are TRUMPETS on this album. Mariachi trumpets, kinda, on ‘Dirty Sanchez’; otherwise Waitsian trumpets. The usual synthy atmospherics take the place of songs, most of which are spoken in the manner of a terminally radged grandfather who, at drunken family parties, implores to be indulged as he does his party piece. Reciting Dylan Thomas, he sounds as energised as John Humphrys reading a cue in an interview with Keir Starmer or Ed Davey. Inept proggery takes the place of raw power, portentous wankpuffinry the place of howled nihilism.

OK, ‘Loves Missing’ and ‘James Bond’ manage, somehow, to catch the ear a little. The rest is beyond parody — and yet it has been swallowed whole by a music press that thought Iggy’s magnificent tirade ‘I’m a Conservative’ was satire. It really wasn’t. He meant it. Iggy was never Leonard Cohen, thank Christ. He was always a charismatic front man for a limited heavy-metal band. Let it be.

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