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Iggy Pop defies aging rocker trope

By Staff | Oct 30, 2019

As a small kid, the image of a 72-year-old man would’ve likely conjured a hunched, weathered old guy in well-worn denim overalls, with what was left of his snow-white hair sticking out from underneath an old, broken-in feed store ball cap. An average callous-handed grandpa telling stories about two-mile hikes through the snow one way to get to school everyday and working dawn to dusk to keep the family in electricity at night, heat in the winter, and water to bathe like most “normal folk” should.

Today, that 72-year-old man is a skinny, slinky, writhing lizard-like rock & roll progenitor and visionary who kicked off an entire genre within the realm of rock music and has continued to retool and appropriate his resources in remarkably effective ways for more than 50 years.

Since his earliest days as one of the Stooges, Iggy Pop has always been a flesh and blood manifestation of freedom and liberation.

Now, with Free – his18th album – Iggy Pop is turning his focus inward, evoking a sense of freedom that comes from the inside. With this new record, he not only continues to hold fast his own ground, but he’s also proving once again that he’s still up for the challenge of finding yet more new areas to cover for himself, both musically and philosophically.

Coming off of a great album like Post Pop Depression – a truly solid and definitive rock record – it’s absolutely characteristic of Iggy Pop to flip it around 180 degrees with an album that’s comparatively unpredictable as it becomes something that’s more reflective and insightful.

Free plays through retaining a warm presence and an overall sonic aesthetic that comes from decidedly different musical directions. In that way, it feels like a more experimental record with engaging arrangements that seem to simply flow like a musical stream of consciousness. It’s kind of like Iggy is letting the process take its individual shapes as it sees fit.

Along with Iggy, jazz musician Leron Thomas plays the trumpet, working with guitarist Noveller (Sarah Lipstate), are essentially the primary instrumentalists here. They tend to create lush sonic landscapes that elicit a rapturous feeling of being swept away, becoming lost in the music. Buoyant and effortless, it has no problem carrying the exceptional weight of Iggy’s crooning baritone with grace.

That is the case especially with songs like the title track, “Sonali,” “Glow in the Dark,” and “Page,” all of which float along and create a sense of swathing lush ethereality. One of the album’s strongest points comes early on with a song entitled “Love’s Missing,” which has an almost droning presence with a constant hypnotic rhythm that swells up steadily to an enveloping climax near the end where Iggy’s vocal delivery briefly channels his old friend David Bowie at its summit.

For all of the shining moments filled with its songs, Free ultimately wraps itself up with a triptych of spoken-word entries that usher the album out with surprising efficacy. His rendition of Lou Reed’s poem “We the People” is primarily backed with brisk runs from Leron Thomas’ trumpet and could easily be at home in a dim, smoky after-hours lounge.

His take on Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” shifts as it ventures into an area of lofty surreality. Then, there’s his own brief piece, entitled “The Dawn,” that closes the album up with a slightly darker musical presence that offers some brief swelling crescendos intermittently, though by this time it’s all closed out, there is an exceptional presence of that often spoken-about freedom.

For the person who needs references for purposes of comparison, recalling releases like his often-subdued Avenue B record, Preliminaries, which did have a foot in jazzier waters, and Apres – a collection of French ballads – might start you on the path.

But it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Free is not really like any other Iggy Pop release. Where Post Pop Depression tended to demonstrate some seriously strong rock balls, Free has a heart and soul that is meditating on the notions of freedom and liberation.

So, if someone would approach this new album searching for the balls-out demigod Iggy Pop, it’d be difficult to find here. On the other hand, those people who really dig Iggy’s diverse range of textures and his refusal to stop finding new methods of expression should probably give Free a serious try.

Joey Cutler lives in Milton. Reach him at statiknoizeblog.wordpress.com