Iggy Pop has very little left to prove. The 72-year-old is one of rock and roll’s true protagonists, a feat which cannot be said of many. 'Free' is the antithesis of rock and roll. Instead, it is a more reflective, darker, weirder body of songs.
Opening with ‘Free,’ there is an instant element of mystery. It is both raw and self-reflective. Elements of lo-fi jazz combine with Leron Thomas’ sorrowful trumpet to create something quite ethereal. It flows well into the semi-hypnotic ‘Loves Missing.’ It has a moody quality combining with the album cover to create a dark and dreary atmosphere from the outset.
From the outside, 2016's 'Post Pop Depression' was a career success. The Grammy nominated album fast became Iggy’s highest-charting album yet. However, it led to a period of self-defined reflection. 'Free' offered the Stooges man a chance to rid himself of long-lasting insecurity. To achieve this, he merely offers his voice and instead allows other artists to speak for him. It is no wonder that the album opens in such an honest manner.
Taking musical risks is valiant and generally admirable, even for Iggy Pop. Nevertheless, ‘Dirty Sanchez,’ a metaphorical hit at inequality and capitalism, misses the mark. Its echoey guitar is best left in the practise room of a 16-year-old who’s just heard the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘505’. Its incongruity is only emphasised by ‘repeat after me’ vocals which are, different, to say the least. No matter how sarcastic one may be, phrases such as ‘desensitised sluts’ are outdated in the modern world. Lyrically, this one is just… weird.
In truth, 'Free' feels like somewhat of a stopgap, like a film series lacking inspiration. Ironically, the album’s lead single is titled ‘James Bond.’ If 'Post Pop Depression' emulated the success of Skyfall then Free mimics the qualities of SPECTRE. Much like the film, it is thematically different but still missing an element of completion.
Fear not, this is Iggy Pop after all, one of the most enigmatic musicians of all time. His credibility is confirmed eternally. This album’s saviour is its reflective qualities. ‘We Are The People’ is as poetic as it is well-thought. Thomas’ clever trumpet use combines with the immense depth of the American’s voice.
There is, however, a sense of dread and worry throughout. It feels like a desperate plea to the people of the Western Hemisphere to choose the right kind of revolution, one underpinned by a sense of togetherness. ‘The Dawn’ too emerges as a poetic favourite, returning to a feeling of rawness. Scarily, it presents a tired Iggy. One which seems both horror-full and empty.
On an album centring around concepts of storytelling and reflection, Iggy Pop’s voice remains phenomenal. It always will. However, an underwhelming feeling lingers throughout 'Free', one which is hard to ignore.
Words: Charlie Barnes
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