Completely different to any album Iggy attempted before or after, "The Idiot" is a testament to two fine rock musicians working together at the top of their of their game. Iggy expands on the darkly debauched crooning style of vocals which had cropped up before with The Stooges ("Dirt", "I Need Somebody") but here the material really suits it. The other Bowie/Pop "Berlin" albums, "Low", "Heroes", and "Lust For Life" are all to some extent influenced by their grim yet inspiring European setting, but none more so than "The Idiot" which reeks of Kraftwerk and Krautrock on the one hand, but also older Germnaic music like the songs of Brecht and Weil and the Weimar republic.
"Sister Midnight" opens the album with messed up funk and tripping guitars chiming in the background as Iggy recounts a Freudian nightmare similar in theme to The Doors' "The End".
"Nightclubbing" is lobotomised Kurt Weil drug pop, blank and vampiric as Iggy and Bowie leer out of the mists of Berlin on a night on the town.
"Funtime" is almost childish, but at the same time driving and desperate, implying that Iggy's having absolutely no fun at all. Creepy in many ways, with echoing syndrum beats and massively reverbed vocals.
"Baby" is more soft and romantic, but dark and continues the European theme of the album very nicely as Pop implores "Baby, please stay young..."
"China Girl" is probably the highpoint of side one, and is vastly superior to Bowie's later remake. Another desperate love song, but this time epic in its scope, featuring synths, massive guitar solos, the full deal. Anthemic and bleak.
"Dum Dum Boys" opens side two, and features a titanic riff, which continues throughout the song's duration, and its autobiographical content makes it an essential bridge between the arty agenda of "The Idiot" and what happened to his former bandmates from The Stooges.
"Tiny Girls" is possibly the weakest track on the album, but it still sits relatively well amongst its superior bedfellows, and is a sentimental though grim tune based around The Ig's paranoia over a girlfriend.
"Mass Production" is the masterpiece of the second side, and is possibly the best "song" on the entire album. Massively long, and the most experimental tune, it also features Iggy's most desolate and hard hitting lyrics: both musically and lyrically the song is about the metaphor between life and industrial mass proiduction. Centring around the line "Though I try to die, you put me back on the line" it focusses on the emptiness in one relationship being replaced with another almost exactly the same "yeah she's almost like you, and I'm almost like him...."
Of all the Bowie/Pop Berlin albums, this and "Low" are the best, and I think all in all this is a grotesquely neglected classic, lyrically, musically, thematically. And a very influential album too, as listening to it certainly reminds of the dark, icy sonics of post punk acts such as Joy Division (and not merely because Joy Division singer Ian Curtis committed suicide whilst this record played).