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4.4 out of 5 stars
The Idiot
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 26 November 2002
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).
Unquestionably recommended.
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55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on 11 January 2000
Early in 1976 David Bowie invited Iggy Pop to join his 'Station To Station' tour. Not as a performer, but as part of Bowie's small group of friends and advisers. Bowie was trying to kick cocaine, Iggy was trying to stay clear of heroin, and at the end of the tour they made a pact - to leave the USA for Europe, and to kick drugs for good. They first decamped to Paris where Bowie had booked studio time to record a single with Iggy. 'Sister Midnight' had been played on the 'Station..' tour. It was a funky, hard tune, but in Iggy's hands it became much more sinister. It soon became apparent that a whole album's worth of material was being recorded by the duo. In many cases Iggy would play drums, Bowie the guitar or keyboards - just the two of them. The resulting tracks were taken to Berlin to be mixed by Bowie's long time producer Tony Visconti, and became 'The Idiot'. Contained within the album are some of Iggy's best ever tracks. Most of the music was composed by Bowie, the lyrics mainly improvised by Pop. 'China Girl' will be a familiar title to most, by Bowie's 1983 remake is incredibly weedy compared with the original which has a grandeur and a power that is incomparable. 'Nightclubbing' contains an evocative description of the duo's new life, set to an almost Kraftwerkian beat. And 'Dum Dum Boys' lists what happened to the Stooges. 'What happened to James?' asks Iggy possibly refering to himself 'He's goin' straight..' is the sardonic reply. Interestingly Iggy has recently said that the beautiful ballad 'Tiny Girls' (with a breathtaking sax solo from Bowie) is one of his personal favourites. Oh, and the quote at the top - I think it was Brian Eno who described 'The Idiot' as like having your head encased in concrete - he was being complimentary, in his typically oblique way. But what he meant was the album totally envelops you, in a thick muddy sound, and the beat thuds it's way through. It's an album that repays many listens. It's as much Bowie's record as Iggy's, but together they created a sound totally unlike anything they would ever create again, either solo or as a team. Devastatingly wonderful.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 20 July 2004
I recall first hearing this in a "listening booth" in a record shop in Bristol. I was stunned by it, and it became an oft-played record during my spead-freek youth.
I haven't bought the CD version, as I cannot decide if I want to re-visit those days, in memory form. I cannot decide if this is the all-time, most depressing album, or Lou Reed's "Berlin."
It's strongest elements are on what was originally side two.
"Mass Production" is a monumental song.
For many years, I thought that "Low" the record found on the late Ian Curtis's turntable; but,no,it was this one.
It is amusing that "China Girl" (co-written by Bowie) was totally ruined by him. Iggy Pop's is the definitive version. I recall some totally misguided person slating the song on Radio 4; disparaging Bowie's version as a piece of sexist exoticism. It's plainly about heroin! The fact that Osterburg released the almost-as-good "Lust For Life " within the same year is quite an impressive achievement. He never topped this, with perhaps "American Caesar" being a close contender. But "The Idiot" is his EUROPEAN album. 1977 was a year that saw many classics released. This one ; "Marquee Moon"; "Low "; "Talking Heads 77." This one is timeless.
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Motor Mekanik fusion of Detroit White Arctic Soul harnessed to German harmonic static petrified kulture. The result was another aesthetic revolution in the late 70's. Berlin and Germany were placed back on the sound map unleashing creativity. Sonic gold emerged with Bowie, Wire and Nick Cave soaking the anarchic grey ambience of walled 24 hour entrapment.

Iggy was rejuvenated by Bowie who continued to conjure his magic, spinning away from his infatuation with all things retro 20's post Weimar. Apart from creating his own music Bowie was particularly astute at germinating the genius, Lou Reed and Transformer, Iggy and The Idiot.

Bowie's roll of A list artistic genii friendships stretched across the golden arc of a rainbow; Lou Reed, Marc Bolan, Iggy Pop and Kraftwerk, the men who shaped the world.

Iggy recovering from emotional collapse and an episode in a psychiatric hospital rekindled, grapped hold of these tunes with an ice cold passion. The vocal range of a man-croak serenading the end of time. Now channelled into an austere bleak pre Joy Division penetration into a gasp at any belief. Relationships of mass production ensure the man is always looking for another pre model, detailed in Tiny Girl and then being stung by the young banshee who wants for this and wants for that. Mid life crisis before he became old.

China Girl is a pure homage to inter racial relationships at a time of deep segregation, belied Bowie's previous infatuation with culural separation. Cultural exoticism for those who are racially blinded, for the enlightened a homage to the beauty of women from all four corners of the world.

Sister Midnight a howl to connection with the dark exotique mistress of the twilight hour, another nod to post caucasian relationships. Bowie later found Iman, "Baby" is Iggy's channelled passion into his Sweet 16's, a song teetering on the edge as a love song to the darkness contained in a young women's soul.

Dum Dum Boys an acknowledgement of mourning and disguised bereavement of the gang. A true marker in the annals of male psychology and emotional honesty. Iggy croons a male "love" song to his former male gang member friends, bewailing his loss of bonds and connection. The there are the "Tiny Girls" a smooch into late night sax.

Nightclubbing and Funtime, musical equivalents to Kraftwerk's "The Model", ironic pastiche of 70's celebrity life. "We're what's happening", sung in the most jaded acidic sarcasm dripping with prawn cocktail bitten screams into the ennui of the twilight.

This album was, and still is, revolutionary on all fronts.
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on 4 September 2014
Still masterful. Amazing how so many people rate this although it never achieved much commercial success. Classic tracks include China Girl and Nightclubbing. Bowie very much there in the background but without overshadowing Iggy. Shame the latter only progressed from this to insurance adverts,
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on 24 July 2015
Great album, poor reissue, the vinyl is excessively noisy
the music itself its worth 5 stars- and more!
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 4 February 2004
This LP, produced and co-written by David Bowie, is Iggy's equivalent of Low. i think Brian Eno described it as like 'having your head encased in concrete'. he meant it as a compliment, and weirdly, he's right. It is an aloof, enigmatic record which is still full of wondeful, unforgettable songs like Sister Midnight and the original and best version of China Girl.
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12 of 19 people found the following review helpful
When David Bowie left L.A. in 1976 along with his luggage he brought with him James Jewel Osterberg a.k.a. as Iggy Pop, who had just got out of hospital with Bowie's help, they both went to Berlin to try and clean up both their collective acts.

After appearing on the seminal Bowie album "Low" (Iggy is singing in the backing chorus of the song "What in the World").

David and Iggy decided to work on what would be the first solo album for Iggy, to record the album "The Idiot" Bowie involved the same personal that made up the Low sessions that's Dennis Davis on drums with George Murray on bass Ricky Gardener on guitar and long standing Bowie side-man Carlos Alomar on rhythm guitar, and everything else from saxophone, guitar and strange devices, and backing vocals was David Bowie, all that plus the production of the album as well, mixing duties where by Bowies producer Tony Visconti.

Bowie even took the black and white photograph that appears on the front cover.

The album begins with a song that Bowie had performed on his 1976 "Station to Station" tour; in fact the music of the track "Sister Midnight" would later appear on the 1979 Bowie album "Lodger" as the song "Red Money" (same music but different lyrics), the second song of the album "Nightclubbing" was used by Grace Jones for her 1981 release of the same name, her version is very similar to Iggy's deadpan delivery but without the menace that the throbbing drums and bass create and her vocals are more like talking in pitch, than Iggy's growl set against guitar.

The track "Fun time" has Bowie shouting the word fun in-between verses giving the song a chant like quality.

This album is full of key moments for both artists' for Iggy "China Girl" which would later appear on the 1983 Bowie album "Lets Dance" album all be it with a different arrangement courtesy of that albums producer Nile Rodgers, the Bowie version would make more income for Iggy than all his released recorded work put together at that point of his career, on the original vinyl release that was the end of side 1.

Side 2 had only 3 tracks starting with the sinister sounding "Dum Dum Boys" which in the world of Iggy sounds like blues that is even more desperate and bleak than normal.

The key moment for Bowie is his outstanding saxophone playing on the song "Tiny Girls" which for me is one of his best performances on that instrument in his recorded work in my option, a real hair on the back of the neck tingling performance.

The sad thing to report is that the pressing that Virgin America released in 1990 has not been re-mastered and so tracks like "Mass Production" which have quite introductions suffer from the curse of C.D., background hiss, so please somebody get the master tapes of this album and get them to "Abbey Road" studios at the double, an album of this significance deserves better than the present state of affairs...
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8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
When “David Bowie” had left L.A. along with his luggage he brought with him “James Jewel Osterberg” a.k.a. “Iggy Pop”, who had just got out of hospital with “Bowie’s” help, to Berlin to try and clean up both their collective acts.
After appearing on the seminal “Bowie” album “Low” (“Iggy” is singing in the backing chorus of the song “What in the World”)
“David” and “Iggy” decided to work on what would be the first solo album for “Iggy”, to record this album “Bowie” involved the same personal that made up the “Low” sessions that’s “Dennis Davis” on drums with “George Murray” on bass “Ricky Gardener” on guitar and long standing “Bowie” sideman “Carlos Alomar” on rhythm guitar, and everything else from saxophone, guitar and strange devices, and backing vocals was “David Bowie”, all that plus the production of the album as well, mixing duties where by “Bowies” producer “Tony Visconti”.
“David Bowie” even took the black and white photograph that appears on the front cover.
The album begins with a song that “Bowie” had performed on his 1976 “Station to Station”, in fact the music of the track “Sister Midnight” would later appear on the “Bowie” album “Lodger” as the song “Red Money”.
This album is full of key moments in my option for both artists’ for “Iggy” the track “China Girl” would later appear on “Bowies” “Lets Dance” album all be it with a different arrangement courtesy of that albums producer “Nile Rodgers”.
The inclusion of this one song from this album on “Lets Dance” would make more money for “Iggy” then any of his previous work put together.
The key moment for “Bowie” career, was the outstanding saxophone playing he did on the song “Tiny Girls” which for me is one of his best performances on that instrument in his recorded career in my option.
The sad thing to report is that the pressing that “Virgin America” released in 1990 wasn’t re-mastered and so tracks like “Mass Production” which have quite intros suffer from the curse of C.D., background hiss, so please somebody get the master tapes and get them to “Abbey Road” studios at the double, an album of this significance deserves better than the present state of affairs…
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on 11 June 2015
so good damn good
the best
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