After a 40-plus-year musical career—during which he played proto-punk with The Stooges, chummed around with David Bowie and morphed into a hit-or-miss solo artist—Iggy Pop has earned the right to make Préliminaires. Whether fans of his scuzz-garage side or unhinged-punk persona will warm to the subdued album is another matter entirely.
On the LP, Pop touches on traditional French music (“Les Feuilles Mortes”), spaghetti-Western mood pieces (“She’s a Business”), outlaw folk (“He’s Dead/She’s Alive”) and ragtime jazz (“King of the Dogs”). As one might expect, these departures aren’t always successful. The ponderous baroque-goth ballads “I Want to Go to the Beach” and “Spanish Coast” would sound better in the hands of Nick Cave, while the album’s lyrical tropes—inspired by Michel Houellebecq’s book The Possibility of an Island, a philosophical sci-fi novel that addresses aging, love and desire—don’t always make sense.
Like the debonair solo departures of another icon, Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry, Préliminaires doesn’t embarrass Pop or his legacy. Pop’s sinister lounge-lizard drawl suits “Mortes,” on which he sings entirely in French, while the electro-drone “Party Time” modernizes his ’70s-era decayed disco. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the LP’s highlight is its most rock-oriented one: the garage-shoegaze roar “Nice to Be Dead.”