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Godfather of punk delves into
smoky French jazz

Iggy Pop - Preliminaries
(Astralwerks Records)
3 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: June 5, 2009
Iggy Pop

Review by Tony Bonyata

What this?... the godfather of punk crooning to French jazz? 1920s New Orleans street music? Iggy Pop - the self-professed 'street walking cheetah with a heart-full of napalm' - ruminating over a piano ballad? Yes, I'm afraid so, but on the 62 year-old's 15th solo album Preliminaries, it also somehow strangely works. Iggy's original intent for this project was to simple write a few songs to accompany a documentary film about the French writer Michel Houellebecq, As the singer became more and more immersed in Houellebecq's works (particularly his 2005 novel The Possibility of an Island) he shifted his focus from writing music for the film to writing an alternative score to the novel. This score makes up the dozen songs on Preliminaries.

The album is book-ended with a wonderful version of the French standard "Les Feuilles Mortes (Autumn Leaves)," originally covered by the likes of Edith Piaf and Yves Montand. Iggy's deep baritone works perfectly with the song's smoky jazz, not to mention the tender balladry of "I Want To Go The Beach." Of course this isn't the first time that rock's enfant terrible has dabbled within the realms of jazz and American standards. In 1998 he dueted with French chanteuse Francoise Hardy on the 1938 standard "I'll Be Seeing You" on Jazz Saint Germain (an intoxicating compilation of jazz standards performed in tribute to the Parisian speakeasies that flourished during the German occupation in World War II). And even earlier in 1990 he did a fun take on Cole Porter's "Well, Did You Evah!" with Deborah Harry on the Red, Hot + Blue compilation benefit album.

Things pick up a bit on Preliminaries with the more rocking "Je Sais Que Tu Sais," "Nice To Be Dead" and the Euro-style synth-rock of "Part Time." Along with the opening French standard the other two tracks that standout on this effort are the stripped-down rural blues number "He's Dead/She's Alive" and, arguably the strongest song of the lot, "King of the Dogs," which hearkens back the New Orleans second-lining street jazz of Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton. Dogs have long been a reoccurring theme throughout both Iggy's solo career and his early punk band The Stooges, and along with this number he also speaks of the unconditional love of canines in the ghostly number "A Machine For Loving." Sure, he may finally be maturing now that he's sliding into his 60s, but even amid the ballads, jazz numbers and French standards Iggy Pop is still barking that he 'wants to be our dog.'

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