Reviewing legendary artists is hard. Reviewing an Iggy Pop album is harder.
The thing about Iggy Pop is that his legacy is rooted in the fact that he’s really not all that concerned about what critics think, and even if he wasn’t an absolute punk icon, he still wouldn’t care—so writing a critique feels kind of, well, pointless.
But, Pop is a legend. And writing about him, even if he doesn’t care for it, is what critics do.
A remaster or a re-release usually isn’t that big of a deal, but when it’s the first time the album has been released since 1982, well, that’s actually something to write about—especially when that release is noted for being weird, even for an Iggy Pop album.
Indeed, Zombie Birdhouse is, weird. It features droning synths, relatively nonsensical lyrics, and techno drum beats that aren’t exactly associated with the Godfather of Punk.
In retrospect, it’s easy to appreciate this album, and appreciate what Pop was trying to do. But in 1982, as new wave and post-punk were rising from the ashes of what would come to be dubbed the “second wave of punk,” it wasn’t as easy to appreciate.
Sure, critics from The Rolling Stone like Parke Puterbaugh thought of it as “brainy” and “well-plotted,” but in general, Zombie Birdhouse wasn’t too warmly received—as if a new wave-tinged album from Iggy Pop just wasn’t what the public was looking for. (It really, really wasn’t.)
Now, of course, with the benefit of history on our side, listening to this album is different. Most folks who put it on already know what they’re getting into, and can fully appreciate the oddity of this piece. It is, fundamentally, an art experiment, and it plays like one.
While there are plenty of “good” or “important” tracks off this album, the remaster features “Pain and Suffering,” a song that didn’t make it on the original cut of the album—a bizarre and creepy song that is more narrated than sung. Clearly pulling from goth and horror influences, “Pain and Suffering” isn’t a bad track, but is again, just super weird, and probably off-putting to the average listener, if they didn’t know what they were getting into.
Overall, Zombie Birdhouse isn’t a release that everyone is going to enjoy—but at this point, you already know whether or not you’re an Iggy Pop fan, and this re-release isn’t going to change that.
Not that Iggy Pop cares, but you know, we figured we’d save you the trouble.
Featured Image: Caroline International