This past Friday saw the release of a new Iggy Pop album, and yet another surprise in his creative output in recent years. Back in the decade before punk, Iggy and the Stooges engaged in a raw, emotional, chaotic and fiery form of music that gained them lots of publicity for Iggy’s self-destructive on-stage performances, but little in the way of real cultural and popular attraction. The Stooges broke up and Iggy went solo, rescued from obscurity, some might say, by his friendship with David Bowie, who produced Pop’s most familiar work, The Idiot, scored himself a massive global hit with Pop’s song, China Girl, and gave Pop a way out of a drug-fueled abyss he was ever-inching toward.
These days Pop is one of music’s legends, and in later life he has gained a level of adoration, not the least because of electric performances on festival stages and in concerts across the globe. His previous album, Post-Pop Depression saw Pop explore some new musical horizons with the help of Josh Homme. That album gained Pop a new wave of fans. The album was honest, open and experimental, not his most rocking album, but certainly one of his most mature and accessible. Many people also thought that it would probably be his last. There was a finality to it, a sort of tying up of loose ends, the work of an artist in his late 60s who wanted one last shot at capturing an essence of his musicality that he had yet to capture.
But then comes Free, somewhat of a surprise release, announced by a short video featuring Pop saying, “I want to be free” with a mournful jazz trumpet. Free is an even more experimental work that sees him joining forces with trumpeter Leron Thomas and ambient guitarist Noveller. It is surely one of his most beautifully produced albums, soaked in ambient sounds and is full of the sound of melancholy, not just Pop’s, but I suspect the melancholy that exists deep within all of us. This is an album for contemplation, for reflecting on one’s existence. There are moments of fun, the song James Bond being one of them, but overall this is a quiet reflective album showing sides of Pop’s musical character that he has hinted at along the way, but never fully realized until now.