Iggy Pop is the last of the iconic seventies art-rock heroes. There’s that iconic image of David Bowie, Lou Reed and Iggy together in their youth, and for many the pantheon really starts and ends with those three names. Lou Reed died. Bowie is dead. Now Iggy has a new album out, potentially his last, and the time couldn’t be riper. Post Pop Depression is a throwback, most certainly, but for those mourning the end of an era, it couldn’t be a more timely one.
The fabulously titled album, Iggy’s seventeenth solo, and first in four years, is something of a super-group effort too. Rock titan in his own right, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, produced and played guitar on the record, while Matt Helders of Arctic Monkeys mans the drums. Iggy’s affiliation with Bowie, who’s fame has never been a high as in the months after his passing, and the inclusion of these artists makes Post Pop Depression something of a last ditch effort for Iggy to regain his oeuvre, which really he hasn’t had hold of since 1977’s Lust For Life, or at least 1990’s very good Brick By Brick. It’s focussed ten tracks, which sound essentially as if they could have been recorded in the seventies and feature all the same little oddities Lust For Life did, is a shameless effort to recapture the elder statesman’s magic once more. It absolutely achieves it.
‘Break Into Your Heart’ acts as something of a manifesto for the record sonically: opening with a thick analogue synth that’s certainly nostalgia inducing, while the track is a thick and slinky slow-burner. Ejected is any concept of return to ‘The Stooges’ Iggy where they went by a reputation as the fiercest band in town: Post Pop Depression cradles its sinister undertones deep beneath the surface. “I’m gonna break into your heart, I’m gonna crawl under your skin”, he growls. The record is a subtle menace, rather than a cartoon villain. In performances Iggy has startlingly begun wearing clothes, perhaps tempered by Homme who seems as much PR man for the artist’s revival as heavy influence on the record’s sound, and indeed the final result is mature, and quietly intellectual. Even at his most drug addled, Pop was always something of an academic, having penned scholarly articles on Edward Gibbons in the nineties, making him something of a model for Nick Cave’s drunk-tank poetry. This side appears here on one of the LP’s best moments, in ‘Gardenia’, where he suddenly proclaims “America’s greatest living poet was ogling you all night!” This track – the record’s highlight and one of the best of his career – is an absolute joy, and sees a hot sauntering melody back Iggy’s tale of “gas, food, lodging, poverty, misery… and Gardenia”.
The album whole is full of the same thick and taut riffing: ‘Sunday’ features one hell of a swing while Helder’s drums play their most prominent part, ‘German Days’ features a long and stiff solo intro, while the breakdown of ‘Gardenia’ sees one almighty glam rock melody placed high and proud in the mix. The album’s greatest facet though is rightly Iggy’s voice. Proving Cave wrong when he suggested Johnny Cash’s death saw the passing of the last great baritone vocalist; Iggy’s singing on the LP is rich and captivating throughout. It’s deployed best on the fanatic ‘American Valhalla’ where Homme lets rip on the vocal effects and Iggy’s instantly iconic eponymous lyrics resonate like a gunshot. The world needed a song where Iggy Pop hollers “I’m looking for American Valhalla!” into an echo chamber, and here it is at last. On ‘Vulture’ too he lets rip, over a delightful spaghetti-western instrumental, where he howls from the depths of his lungs until the track’s end, finishing with a little splutter in case you forget how campy and ridiculous this whole thing is.
The whole album is littered with little moments like these, such as the moment on the otherwise fairly forgettable ‘Into The Lobby’ where he clips as he howls “I hope I’m not losing my life tonight!” There is however a lingering sense that the weird moments on the record are a little forced: as if Homme made a spreadsheet of why he was an Iggy Pop fan and made sure to “include odd thing” on every track. When it feels natural it’s a delight, but sometimes the moments feel forced, such as the outro for ‘Sunday’ where the rock instrumental gives way to a symphonic two minute interlude, which sounds beautiful and could have been a great moment if it actually happened for any particular reason. There’s also the chorus “and your shit turns into chocolate drops” on the otherwise brilliantly sultry ‘Chocolate Drops’ which, not only doesn’t really mean anything, but is just on the wrong side of crude.
“There is a lingering sense that the weird moments on the record are a little forced”
It’s worth it though, to ensure the moments when it absolutely clicks, such as on closer ‘Paraguay’. Not only is the imagery of Pop escaping and leaving everything behind captivating in the song’s first half, the tune, and indeed the whole album, degenerates into a hilarious spoken word rant as Homme and Helders persist in chanting the hook as if nothing’s happening. “I wanna be your basic clod who made good/And went away while he could/To somewhere where people are still human beings/Where they have spirit/You take your motherfucking laptop/And just shove it into your goddamn foul mouth/And down your shit heel gizzard/You fucking phony two faced three timing piece of turd/And I hope you shit it out/With all the words in it/And I hope the security services read those words/And pick you up and flay you/For all your evil and poisonous intentions/Because I’m sick/And it’s your fault!” It’s a deliciously cranky outburst, one that truly signals Iggy as a man no longer fit for these times, but one who won’t be going anywhere without a fight.
Post Pop Depression is a great album: one with pace and brevity and a bucket-load of character. The odd song is a little weaker than the others, but it’s worth it for ‘Gardenia’, ‘American Valhalla’ and ‘Paraguay’ alone, three songs which are amongst the formidable musician’s very best. It would be wrong to read too deeply into the album as a swansong record, because unlike his peer Bowie’s Blackstar, it obviously isn’t there to be found. Instead, with a fresh set of ears and the help of his friends, Iggy Pop has crafted instead a testament to his career by simply doing what he does best.
Liam Inscoe – Jones
Liam is currently listening to ‘ULT’ by Denzel Curry