Sound: The iconic Godfather of Punk Iggy Pop we have grown to love has apparently been in need of a change, particularly one without all of that cumbersome distortion. His latest record Prliminaires, which is a hybrid of New Orleans jazz, swamp rock, and traditional standards is apparently a response to Pop being sick of listening to idiot thugs with guitars banging out crappy music. Whatever his reasoning behind the musical leap, Prliminaires makes a huge impression on its own. If you're a fan of Tom Waits' quirky and sometimes haunting material, you'll probably embrace Pop's new music with open arms. But if you prefer to have punk legends hold strong to their roots, be prepared to have a great deal of trouble with Pop singing a love ballad in French.
Prliminaires was inspired by French author Michel Houellebecq's novel La Possibilit d'une le, and if you review the stylistic changes on the record, one can assume that there are plenty of emotional turns within the book. Pop's album never fits one genre through and through, but even during the bluesier or down-home moments, there is air of sophistication to the whole album. The songs that will perhaps raise the most eyebrows are the ballads Les feuilles mortes (or Autumn Leaves, a standard performed in the past by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Edith Piaf), Spanish Coast, and How Insensitive. There is little flash to any of the aforementioned songs, and Pop renders them much like they have been done by a variety of crooners in the past.
In terms of the Tom Waits comparison, you'll find that style ever-present in tracks like the New Orleans-influenced King of the Dogs and the spoken word track A Machine For Loving. When Pop recites a line like What is a dog, but a machine for loving with his low, gravelly voice, you can't help but feel that he must have a certain admiration for Waits' style. Some might make the argument that it comes too close to the unique genre that Waits has created for himself, but Pop has the commanding baritone delivery to pull it off.
You may be wondering if there is actually any punk, or even rock for that matter, on Prliminaires. The closest thing that comes to rock on the album is Nice To Be Dead, which has a very subtle punk vibe underneath. Much of the album features Pop's sullen style of vocal, but Nice To Be Dead finally brings out more of the high-pitched end of his singing. The other up-tempo track although not really a rock track is the odd, but infectious Party Time. It's fairly short in length, but there's a nice bass line that adds a little funk to the record. Synth also plays heavily into the song and makes it essentially a dance number, but Party Time does make for a nice contrast against the multiple ballads. // 8
Lyrics: Because the bulk of the material was influenced by Michel Houellebecq's novel, there is very little lyrically that you'd expect to come out of Pop's mouth. Between the traditional ballad Les feuilles mortes (part of the translation includes lines like I see your lips, the summer kisses; The sun-burned hands I used to hold) and the introspective I Want To Go To The Beach (I don't know where my spirit went; But that's all right; I want to go to the deep; Cause there's nowhere I want to be), it's a much more thoughtful, sentimental side of the punk rocker. Of all the lyrics, it's the spoken word lines in A Machine For Loving that will likely leave the biggest impression. Likely influenced by Pop's favorite character in Houellebecq's book, a little white dog named Fox, the song features deep and certainly thought-provoking content about man's best friend (What is a dog, but a machine for loving). // 9
Overall Impression: Prliminaires is the kind of album that suits a certain mood. While there are quite a few records in Iggy Pop's catalog that you could pop in the CD player at any given time and they're simply great to rock out to, his new material can take you to very dark places at times. Much like Waits, Pop's baritone vocals have a darker vibe to them that are somewhat disconcerting, but altogether intriguing at the same time. Pop has a smooth delivery that works for standards like Les feuilles mortes (which he sings quite flawlessly in French much of the time), and in a way that does prove that Pop is still pushing the envelope. Given that it's harder and harder to become edgy in the world of punk, Pop is now showing that the gutsiest thing you can do is turn down the amp and croon with the best of them. There will certainly be an audience for his musical turn, but you can be guaranteed that Pop will send many of his punk followers away in a huff. // 9