Released: March 1977
Chart Peak: #72
Weeks Charted: 13
Iggy Pop has always been the greatest rock comedian. As leader and frontispiece for that most extreme wing of rock nihilism represented by the Stooges, he at once defined and ridiculed the options left to punk rockers after "My Generation." The nihilist attitude meant plenty when it was a reaction to the pop status quo best exemplified by Dick Clark, but once nihilism itself became the status quo it was trivialized into mere decadence, a fashionable synonym for boredom.
Iggy's criticism is a brilliant, if depressing, argument in defense of that much debated assertion that rock is dead. The Idiot, recorded by Bowie, sung in a tired growl excoriated from Jim Morrison via Ray Manzarek, and steeped in the so-called "minimalist" ambiance currently so fashionable among young bands who've spent too much time listening to Iggy and taking him seriously, is the most savage indictment of rock posturing ever recorded.
Iggy's point, of course, is that rock is better off dead, but his is not the sentimental, transcendental approach to death. The Idiot is, on the contrary, a necrophiliac's delight, and Pop's next move may well go beyond flesh-tearing into live barbecue.
- John Swenson, Rolling Stone, 5/5/77.
- Billboard, 1977.
The line on Iggy is that this comeback album with Bowie and friends proves his creative power has dissipated. I say bullshit. The Stooges recorded prophetic music, but only some of it was great: because Iggy's skill at working out his musical concept didn't match his energy and inspiration, the attempted dirges fell too flat and some of the rockers never blasted off as intended. Dissipated or not, the new record works as a record. By now, Iggy barbs his lyrics with an oldtimer's irony, which suits the reflective tone Bowie has imposed on the music just fine. In retrospect, it will appear that this was Iggy's only alternative to autodestruct. Not true, perhaps, but retrospect favors artifacts. A-
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
Although it appears that producer David Bowie directed the proceedings a bit too carefully, remaking Iggy Pop entirely in his own image, The Idiot proves that Iggy was equally responsible for the menacing electronic music. The Idiot was an effective reinvention on the part of Iggy Pop partially because it removed him completely from the primal heavy guitar grind of The Stooges. A different musical direction in itself would be meaningless if Iggy and Bowie hadn't produced a set of songs that supported the new, synth-driven style. "Funtime" is essentially a sleazy, mid-tempo rocker that is re-energized by its context, but most of the album explores the various subtexts within the bleak, keyboard-dominated soundscapes. Iggy's lyrics are some of his best, as he faithfully recreates the hedonistic underworld of jet-setting "Nightclubbing," with both humor and rage. Several of the songs -- including "Funtime," "China Girl," and "Nightclubbing" -- have become post-punk standards, but that doesn't remove the jarring, disturbing sound of the record. In its own quiet way, The Idiot is as discomforting as Fun House. * * * *
- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
On the solo front, Iggy's Lust for Life and The Idiot are seminal works that approach the Stooges' level of fury, capturing the energetic magic of the Stooges but incorporating some dynamic sophistication courtesy of Bowie's influence. * * * * *
- Gary Graff, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.
In the eight years since The Stooges' debut album exploded into the popular consciousness, Iggy Pop had burned brighter and fallen more spectacularly than any other artist of his generation. Sobering up from a self-imposed stint in a mental institution, Detroit's finest was aching for a second chance, but record labels were understandably wary of taking a chance on one of rock's greatest flakes. Enter, his fairy godmother, David Bowie.
Bowie, who had worked with Iggy Pop on 1974's Raw Power, pulled together a band and brought Pop to Berlin, where the Thin White Duke was mining a rich seam of inspiration. Out went the wild abandon of The Stooges' raucous guitar and rhythm section, and a more cerebral, subdued sound developed in the songs the pair co-wrote. Keyboards and bass featured heavily, leading Iggy to dub the sound "James Brown meets Kraftwerk."
The lyrics serve as redemption for Pop. Whether it is the wistful odes to his previous drug and sexual excesses on "Funtime," or the almost mawkish recollection of his ex-band buddies during "Dum Dum Boys" and its spoken-word intro ("How about Dave?" /"OD-ed on alcohol..." /"How about James?" /"He's going straight"), you sense The Idiot is a step out of Iggy's mental miasma.
But while his anguished howls and sinister baritone suggests a man pained, there is room for play too, as he apes Bowie on "China Girl" (later to be a hit for the latter), and the anthem of the anti-Studio 54 brigade, "Nightclubbing." If music as rehab was always this successful, the clinics would soon be empty.
- Seth Jacobson, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.
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