Review Summary: Otherworldly, beautiful, haunting and cool, Iggy Pop records the prototype for Bowie's "Berlin Trilogy" and creates a masterpiece in his own right.
Iggy Pop, godfather of punk. This is a phrase you'll no doubt have heard countless times. This album was released in 1977, the "year that punk broke". What's funny then is that this album is pretty far removed from the typical punk stylings of The Clash or Sex Pistols, and even further removed from the sound displayed on The Stooges albums...
This is perhaps better explained by the fact that this album was more or less co-written by David Bowie, practically being a collaborative effort. As such, this is definitely not the most representative of Iggy Pop's vast works (follow up "Lust for Life" is often regarded as far more so), but the quality here is undeniable, as under Bowie's guidance Iggy Pop created a near masterpiece that can sit proudly alongside classics such as Bowie's own "Low", also recorded in Berlin. The song "Baby" starts with a repetitive, simple bass drone that undoubtedly had an influence on post-punk bands such as Joy Division (so much of an influence that Ian Curtis chose this album as the soundtrack to his suicide), with Iggy Pop's deep vocals adding that menacing tone to the song, a theme that pervades over the album as a whole. He actually kinda sounds like Bowie on this track. This is a perfect example of the type of music this album undoubtedly influenced to a great degree.
Opener "Sister Midnight" also displays this style, echoing the highlight of "Low", "Sound and Vision" in the guitar tones and simple, repetitive yet effective guitar licks. Iggy is basically talking here, kind of sounds like preaching; again creating a distanced, slightly robotic atmosphere which is only offset by the previously detailed guitar, as the drums and bass also plod away with hypnotic uniformity. Following track "Nightclubbing" follows a similar formula, but adds horns and piano into the mix, really expanding the palette of the album, dragging Iggy Pop from The Stooges accidentally seminal fury into the world of art - the song's middle introducing a confused, wobbly guitar part that quite frankly sounds ahead of its time.
One of the clear highlights, for me at least, is the track "China Girl". Pure pop in the Bowie vein (he actually rerecorded this song for his own album later on so the financially strained Pop could collect royalties), it ups the tempo of the album, and even ups the mood with uplifting chimes and that familiar style of guitar running all the way through. This is probably the most conventional song on the album, but, surrounded by examples of Pop and Bowie trying to push the boundaries, this works even better, the mood drops of slightly towards the end, Pop's vocals becoming slightly strained, before again lulling back into his drowsy demeanour. Simply put, this is a classic song.
Penultimate track, "Tiny Girls", is also a standout, the horns and slow, lounging bassline, along with the fitting drum work laying the ground work, the saxophone solo later on really setting this apart - a chilled, jazz inspired ballad exploring doubt in a relationship. This feeling is echoed in the effortless cool of "Dum Dum Boys", finger clicking and all, pronounced bassline accompanying a vocal performance so deep and preacher esque he might well have been prophesising the release of "Unknown Pleasures" a mere two years later (a claim given more credence by the final tracks ridiculous resemblance to said album, in the opening three minutes at least).
Overall, although this may not be the most representative work in Iggy Pop's back catalogue, it surely has to rank as one of the best, the dark tones, emphasis on the bass guitar and Iggy Pop's vocal style having an obvious influence that still prevails today. There's a collage of sound to be found here (the last track has some kind of warped Elephant like sound, probably made by synth, check it out) that really keeps the songs fresher and more interesting than many "classic" albums from the decade.