Well, to paraphrase Captain Beefheart, "Iggy was hungry but he sure weren't weird." I noticed in a couple of previous reviews that this is "bizarre" or "weird" music. Yes, it is experimental to a degree, but it's always in service to the emotion that Iggy is trying to get across.
For example, the slow-building, droning guitar/keyboard loop that slowly grows on Life Of Work implies exactly that - a droning, rhythmic life of work. "The people stare with blinking eyes, the workforce stands in readiness." The lyrical imagery is amazing on every track. I think of this as "thinking man's grunge" - because it's raw and personal but loud and rhythmic too. I'd bet anything that one Kurt Cobain spun this on his turntable a few times in his formative years!
Almost every song has a unique aural setting that fits it's message perfectly. Producer/guitar player Chris Stein (of Blondie!!) really goes wild in conjuring "jungle-like" sounds with strange metallic textures. This was one of his first projects after Blondie crashed and burned, and he was really eager to go in a new artistic direction. His imprint is all over this effort.
The drumming is also quite prominent throughout the album, with bongos (!) among other unusual percussion instruments (for his genre) that further the tribal aspect of the music.
Iggy really let's 'er rip with the tribal aspect of human nature in both his lyrics and vocal performance. It was a personally dark time for him. I saw him in late 1982, with about 49 other people, in Eugene, Oregon. At about 2:30 a.m., after looking generally [angry] and crazed (and flipping his mike stand hard into the audience a couple of times) he fired his soundman near the end of the show. Kicked him right off the stage! I think you can hear that anger, that exasperation, in this album.
When this first came out, it hit me on a very personal level. I had never heard music of such an intensely personal nature before. The closest anything has come since is probably mid-late 90's Radiohead. And people go crazy for them! Why not Iggy? Well, Radiohead is definitely more "mainstream" in several ways - sound, looks, actions - and I guess Iggy's just too much to take for most people. His singing isn't anywhere near pitch perfect, but again, it's calculated to be that way. He isn't doing anything by accident here, but the whole album has a really spontaneous feel that keeps it fresh over two decades later.
It's ironic that many Iggy fans put this near the bottom of their list but it's my #1 Pop favorite. If you haven't heard it, give it a try - but do it with an open mind (and preferably listen to it in a darkened room late at night for best effect).