Some 40 years after Iggy Pop first groaned ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, the weathered and leathery punk godfather finds wish fulfilment on Préliminaires. The head Stooge certainly superficially looks the part, with his mangy cocker spaniel locks and loose Shar-Pei skin hanging over knotty pit-bull bulk, but there’s real canine soul behind Pop’s 15th album.
‘King Of The Dogs’ and ‘A Machine For Loving’ tether the record, which found its inspiration in The Possibility Of An Island, a novel by French provocateur Michel Houellebecq. In the former song, Pop rubs our noses in his filth over a brassy New Orleans funeral march: ‘I got a smelly rear… I got a piece of meat in between my teeth.’ Like Houellebecq, Pop’s Préliminaires seeks high art in our basest instincts.
Contrary to reports, this is no jazz album – cabaret, perhaps. After a decade of messing about with loud crotch rock, Pop has picked up the thread from his derided and autobiographical beatnik piece, Avenue B. Synth-heavy blues-rhythm tracks like ‘Je Sais Que Tu Sais,’ ‘Nice To Be Dead’ and ‘Party Time’ slink and slither like elder sophisticated horndogs Serge Gainsbourg and Leonard Cohen in the ’80s.
Lyrically, little is different from the potty-minded 2007 Stooges comeback. Iggy may have tired of knuckle-dragging metal guitars, but he’s still looking for little more than sex and a nap. Yet couched in acoustic cocktail lounge numbers like ‘Spanish Coast’ and ‘I Want To Go To The Beach’ the old mutt comes off as crude and kinda adorable. The spoken-word ‘A Machine For Loving’ recycles Houellebecq’s prose – an ode to a dead pet – to entrancing effect, but Pop has always been able to underline man’s similarity to his leg-humping companions in far fewer words.
Available at www.7digital.com.
Having worked in the 13-to-27-member Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens’s sprawling ensemble, Annie Clark obviously knows how to be a team player. Yet the talented Tulsa-born singer-songwriter clearly has more than enough good ideas of her own, as she demonstrated with her ambitious debut, Marry Me, released under the nom de plume St. Vincent.
Those who wonder how one follows an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink album like that get their answer with Actor, St. Vincent’s grand, bolder and even more assured sophomore opus. A study in the contrast between chaos and order, the record matches the emotional grandeur of carefully composed movie scores thanks to Clark’s more anarchic electric-guitar tendencies. Songs such as ‘The Strangers’ and ‘Black Rainbow’ envision an alternate history in which brainy prog-shredders like Robert Fripp wrote MGM musicals. Clark is equally adept when she reins in her artier instincts to offer askew pop numbers like the snappy, echoing and string-laden ‘Laughing With A Mouth Of Blood’ and the Peter Pan timpani and pipes whimsy of ‘The Bed’.
If there’s a downside to Clark’s virtuosity and precise vision, it’s that her intricately imagined soundscapes and furious flights of fancy sometimes come off as precious and stilted. But stilted is far from sterile. With Clark’s crazed balloon-artist compulsion to twist the familiar and comfortable into something unrecognisable and exciting, Actor is beguiling and oddly giddying.
Available to download at www.7digital.com.