Is Iggy Pop losing his marbles? First there was the much talked-about ad campaign for a British insurance firm - a strange choice of an income generator for a punk/garage rock legend, and one usually reserved for Hollywood stars resigned to flogging noodles in Japan to pay for the new wing of their mansion. What next, Johnny Rotten selling butter?
To say that the 62-year-old Stooges frontman has thrown us yet another curveball - this time, thankfully music-related - is something of an understatement, though. 'Préliminaires' is as far from Pop's 'traditional' sound as you can imagine; it's been touted as a jazz album, but that's not strictly true, either. Yes, there are several tracks here that ultilise piano, double bass, and the same sort of hushed percussion and offbeat rhythms that are inherent in jazz music. They're spliced with uptempo guitar songs that could hardly be described as 'rock', though, while there's even a country-blues number ('He's Dead/She's Alive'), a Tom Waits-like jaunty bar thump (the excellent 'King of the Dogs') and Kraftwerk at an afternoon tea party (the less impressive 'Party Time').
The most surprising thing about this surprising album - inspired, as it happens, by a novel of French author Michel Houellebecq's - is that Pop's adapts his voice and persona to these raspy, understated songs so well, even tackling the lingo with aplomb on French jazz standard 'Les Feuille Mortes'. And if his lyrics are occasionally comedically at-odds with the subtlety of the music ("You can convince the world that you're some kind of superstar / When an asshole is all you are"), that's OK, too. He is essentially a punk, after all.