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Iggy Pop - Free (Album Review)

Thursday, 12 September 2019 Written by Jacob Brookman

Photo: Harmony Korine

Iggy Pop is one of America’s greatest living rock artists—a stage performer whose visceral public persona is immediate and undeniable. However, that doesn’t always translate into recognisable hits...or even high quality music. Like his late contemporary Lou Reed, sometimes his songs seem deliberately shoddy so as to disappoint and frustrate his audience.

This is notable on ‘Free’, an album that doesn’t make it far past 30 minutes and which is rounded off by some slightly unconvincing spoken word numbers. The first is We Are The People, a 1970 poem by Reed, here accompanied by ambient jazz extemporisation courtesy of Noveller’s Sarah Lipstate and trumpet player Leron Thomas.

The words appear to have updated effortlessly for Trump’s America: “We are the people who have known only lies and desperation / We are the people without a country, a voice, or a mirror.” It is serviceably profound and yet it does not feel terribly new or challenging.

The same can be said for his interpretation of Dylan Thomas’s Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. There is no reason that Pop would know this—it probably wouldn’t make any difference if he did—but setting that poem to music is actually composition coursework on the British A-Level music syllabus. With this knowledge in hand, when you listen to the song, it's difficult to get away from the idea that there might actually be dozens of better interpretations knocking around on sixth form computers.

The troubling thing here is that there is a real air of finality to proceedings, and ‘Free’ should not be Iggy Pop’s final album. It’s just not good enough. Yes, his best late-era music has all come from named collaborations, with Underworld, Josh Homme, Death In Vegas and more, but this album is not fit to bookmark an astounding, gravity defying career. It’s disappointing and frustrating. Oh, wait.

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