Album review: Iggy Pop – Free

Iggy Pop album revie Free

Iggy Pop album revie Free - Credit: Archant

Iggy’s latest finds him as an artist rather than a rock star, swimming in contemplative, jazz-inflected waters.

Iggy's first album since 2016's Grammy-nominated Post-Pop Depression, Free is touted as having virtually nothing in common, sonically, with any of his previous solo work.

So where does a leathery septuagenarian of his musical vintage go? Perhaps wanting to transpose the collaborative approach that has seen him lay down guest vocals for a multitude of artists over the decades into his own work, Iggy calls Free "an album in which other artists speak for me, but I lend my voice".

His search for a feeling of freedom manifests itself in a record which "just kind of happened to me," he says, "and I let it happen".

You can spot the influence of last year's work with dance titans Underworld - who laid his unmistakable half-singing over a fabric of gently pulsating, solidly unremarkable synths in seven-minute plodder Get Your Shirt.

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But Free is better than that. It intoxicates with suggestion - the cover image of Iggy wading into inky, pre-dawn waters, each track visited by his slow and deliberate voice, aged in a barrel of hard living and tall tales.

Iggy worked principally with guitarist Noveller (Sarah Lipstate) and brass maestro Leron Thomas on these 10 tracks, which between them strike a sombre, contemplative tone influenced by early-hours jazz clubs.

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Recent single James Bond is one of only two brasher, tongue-in-cheek songs and not typical of the rest of this 34-minute record. The latest eerie cut, Sonali, is a better pointer - skittish drum machine set against plangent synth notes and freeform trumpet, Iggy spouting nonsensical couplets that confound any attempt to divine meaning or narrative.

He sings wobbly but charmingly on the somnambulant Page, which feels like it was recorded through a rippling moonlit lake - and We Are The People's poetics (courtesy of Lou Reed) are the opposite of a rabble-rouser.

Closing the record, atmospheric synths and distant thuds imbue The Dawn with an almost filmic tension, a perfect backdrop as he warns (with the ominous conviction of a man who, at 72, has had more than his fair share of both): "Love and sex are gonna occur to you, and neither one is gonna solve the darkness".

Experimental? Perhaps. Art? Certainly.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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