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Ragged glories from punk's oddball

Rating: 8 / 10

Peter Murphy, 09 Jul 2009

Back in 1999 Iggy Pop put out one of the best records of his career and nobody gave a shit. Avenue B turkeyed, maybe ’cos it was just too straight up – a then 52-year-old man ruminating on the brutality of sex, solitude, death, corruption and Nazi girlfriends. Nick Tosches gave the record its due at the end of his Sonny Liston book Night Train, completed that same year. It’s fitting then that new songs like ‘I Want To Go To The Beach’ and the spectral, majestic ‘Spanish Coast’ evoke the pages from Tosches’s In the Hand Of Dante where Old Nick lies in a hammock recovering from a life-threatening sickness, feeling the breezes of death brush his cheek in an island paradise.

Preliminaires is a return to the unflinching nature of Avenue B. It’s sophisticated and complex, weaving plush torch songs with primitive blues, but there’s dirt under its fingernails and bits of meat between its teeth. Maybe the Stooges reformation had the dual benefit of allowing us, the audience, to witness one of the all time great live bands while allowing Iggy to purge his soul of Dionysian noise, thus freeing him to once again make a record that befits not just his age, but his wisdom.

Inspired by Michel Houellebecq’s novel The Possibility Of An Island, with cover art by Persepolis author Marjane Satrapi, Preliminaires has a Francophile bent, with nods to the chanson tradition of Montand and Piaf on the overture and reprisal of Kosma and Prevert’s (watch the spelling) ‘Les Fueilles Mortes’, plus a slinky blues duet with Lucie Aime (‘Je Sais Que Tu Sais’) and a take on Antonio Carlos Jobim’s ‘How Insensitive’ which allows Mr Osterberg to get his most velvety croon on.

There’s also a canine theme. The man who once sang ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ as an apocalyptic teeter on the yin-yang of transcendence and self-obliteration now interpolates Satchmo for ‘King Of The Dogs’, a hymn to the unbearable profundity of being, well, a dog. Like Mickey Rourke, Iggy has found in the mutts an analogue for how to live, hence ‘A Machine For Loving’, a co-write with Houellebecq.

Anyone who thought Iggy a spent creative force put out to stud on the live circuit can think again. Preliminaires is a craggy beauty.

Key track: ‘Spanish Coast’

Rating: 8 / 10
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