So let's take a look at a record from bang smack in the middle of the afore mentioned 'grey area', (unofficially from 1979's 'New Values' to 1990's 'Brick By Brick') The 1982 album 'Zombie Birdhouse'. I can see this album coming up for some kind of re-appraisal in the very near future.
It's far from perfect but the 80's metallic sound that helps define it is not too far off being en-vogue right now. Brings to mind newly hip and utterly clueless 80's Metal Urbain in parts. On top of that the album has a few true stand outs. 'The Horse Song' for example, my reason for re-buying this record after so long.
I bought my first copy of this from the mighty Relay records in Bristol in what must have been 1994 off the strength of the previously mentioned track. A version of which had appeared on the SST compilation 'Duck and Cover' (Think it was The Leaving Trains). I am guessing I off-loaded my copy of the above album because i'd expected it to come a little bit closer to the proverbial 'hits', 'Passenger', 'Lust for Life' that kind of thing.
As it is the songs on Zombie Birdhouse are a mess, lazily sung, ill-conceived but now however many years later all of these things actually add to it's charm. There is much in the way of bummed out noodling and at times it actually sounds like Iggy is intent on destroying anything that even remotely resembles what you might call 'traditionally listenable'.
The two big stand-outs 'Life of Work' and 'Watching the News' are much darker than the rest of the album, bordering on industrial in tone and in the case of the latter, Krautrock in rhythmic repetittion. Looking at the sleeve of the album, I can't think of anything less in keeping. It is an awesome cover though. It's hard to say why it works, it just does. Looks very much like Iggy in exile, which I suppose given the relative failure of his solo career at the time was kind of the case. The previous two albums 'Party' and 'Soldier' bombed and on listening it's easy to understand why.
To be honest, that Zombie Birdhouse works is just a quirk of time, kind of like discovering that an out of date tin of peaches somehow tastes better twenty years past the sell-by due to some freak of fermentation. Despite that, it's well worth giving a listen, especially when it's the kind of record you still find in the cheap racks.