Iggy Pop, godfather of punk. This is a phrase you’ll no doubt have heard countless times. Idiot 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…
More or less co-written by David Bowie, this is definitely not the most representative of Iggy Pop‘s vast works but the quality here is undeniable. The song ‘Baby’ starts with a repetitive, simple bass drone that undoubtedly had an influence on post-punk bands such as Joy Division, 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 kind of sounds like Bowie on this track.
Opener, ‘Sister Midnight’, also displays this style, echoing the highlights of Bowie’s ‘Sound and Vision’ in the guitar tones and simple, repetitive yet effective guitar licks. Iggy is basically talking here, kind of sounding 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, 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 off 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. This feeling is later echoed in the effortless cool of ‘Dum Dum Boys’.
Overall, although this may not be the most representative work of 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.