The Soldier Demos
[no label 1CD Torrent #97731]
Live at Rockfield Studios, Wales, UK, Aug 27, 1979.

Iggy Pop's fourth new album following his 1977 re-emergence from the abyss, Soldier has always occupied an awkward position in his canon, a record that is almost idiotically enjoyable, without once venturing into the iconic territory that its audience demanded Iggy embrace. No "Search And Destroy," no "No Fun," no "Lust For Life," Soldier was simply a gathering of poppy new wave singalongs, with no point to prove beyond the fact that even legends need to kick back occasionally.

This collection only amplifies the loose humor of the sessions. Less demos than out-takes and rehearsals, apparently recorded with an open mike and a cassette machine, it wraps up most of the Soldier album, with the most significant absentees being the old Stooges stand-by "Dog Food," and the spontaneous combustion of "Play It Safe," a performance that was hatched on the spot by Iggy, a passing Bowie and a visiting Simple Minds. 

The spirit of the latter, however, was already hanging over the sessions. "I Snub You," present here as a quirky instrumental, is dominated by a keyboard riff straight out of the Minds' first album, while the set as a whole has a fidgety, funky, synth-screened sheen that marks it out as archetypal New Wave - an uber-fashionable mood that, perhaps sensibly, was removed in the final recordings. There's nothing like sounding up to date to make an album age at an appalling rate!

Key lyric changes are another noticeable element. "I Need More" is all but unrecognizable words-wise, while "Loco Mosquito" is also caught at a very early stage of development, clunky in both construction and execution, and underpinned by a rather annoying mosquito-style buzzing. Those synths again! Not all the changes were for the better, though. A fragile "I'm A Conservative" loses the album's grating "la-la-la" backing vocals, and emerges a distorted second cousin to "I Wanna be Your Dog," while "Ambition" packs a turbulent edge that the smooth Soldier version was lacking, even without the lyrics.  

There're some good ideas rattling around the untitled instrumentals that close the disc, as well, including a couple that Iggy would certainly be returning to in the future. For now, though, The Soldier Demos stands as that most fascinating of snapshots, the barely-remembered gestation of a barely-appreciated album. But compare it to the however-many albums Iggy has released post-Soldier. Has he ever had this much fun in the studio since then? - Dave Thompson

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