iggy pop and josh homme

Review: Iggy Pop, “Post Pop Depression”

Post Pop Depression stands as an album that you never knew that you wanted. It came so out of the blue, so unexpected, that the shock of the revelation was almost as exciting as the revelation itself. Iggy Pop – a grizzly old rocker often cited as the preeminent punk godfather, wild provocateur, and all-round iconic front man, working alongside a modern day great in Josh Homme who has spent the last ten years or so of his career working with people like Billy Gibbons, John Paul Jones, Elton John, and that guy from Scissor Sisters.

While the names featured on this record are undoubtedly impressive, they serve as a backing band to Iggy as he reflects on life and death with the type of detail only experience can yield. However, that’s not to say that Homme’s fingerprints aren’t all over this too. His unmistakable guitar riffs slither around along with his backing vocals beneath Iggy’s crooned singing and lyrics that remain thoroughly transparent and honest throughout.

“I sent him a dossier on me by FedEx: written form, no email. I sent him three essays I’d written on my sex life about specific people. I also sent him an interview I did with an eminent critic here in New York about his concerns about my career,” Iggy recently recounted in an interview when explaining how the collaboration first came into existence.

After a few months of processing time, the duo agreed to work together and met up in the LA desert. Homme then called on multi-instrumentalist Dean Fertita and Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders to complete the all-star line-up for Iggy’s 17th solo album of his career. The secret project was started over a year ago at the Rancho de la Luna studio, yet amazingly was only just recently announced on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

The album begins with Break Into Your Heart, which features a minor key guitar riff from Homme that wouldn’t sound out of place on Queens of the Stone Age’s Lullabies to Paralyze. It’s a carnival of darkness as Iggy croons over the dusty desert atmospherics. “I’m gonna break into your heart, I’m gonna crawl under your skin.” And that is exactly what this brooding opener does. It sneaks in with a cool and detached bravado, before revealing its true destructive intentions. “Break them all, take them all, fake them all, steal them all, fail them all, touch them all.”

The first single to be released from the album was Gardenia, which has been repeatedly linked to the late great David Bowie. The comparisons can be made both lyrically and texturally, but make no mistake: this is an Iggy Pop track. The bright, sunny guitar opening gives way to a jaunty rhythm and Iggy waxing lyrical about “your hourglass ass and your powerful back,” and so on. It’s a seedy reflection on sexual obsession, as images of cheap motel rooms, leather burgundy chairs that have seen better days, and a seemingly unimpressed Iggy Pop sitting in the corner of a smoke-filled room while watching the women pass by him, flash in and out of focus. They may be beautiful and alluring, but they can never quite match up to Gardenia.

American Valhalla then follows with an entirely irresistible low bass groove. But it’s also a song that is completely resigned to its fate. The looming nature of death pervades every note and every lyric that Iggy spits out here, like the saddening declaration, “I’ve nothing but my name.” While In the Lobby features a desert groove, complete with wailing guitars fixed up against a rumbling drum beat that almost has a jungle feel to it.

The album’s centrepiece Sunday takes the spotlight, with rolling drums and a clean guitar line. It confidently struts along like some disco-loving lothario, taken straight out of his late 1970’s pomp. You can almost see the questionably coloured pastel suits, the platform shoes, and the disco ball as it spins above in a room which suddenly turns dangerous. A chugging bass line kicks in and a cacophony of backing vocals all filter around Iggy’s delivery. An all-female choral group then enters into the mix as it drifts off into a hypnotic and stunning orchestral conclusion.

The slowest track on the album, Vulture, sees Iggy observing the desert scavenger picking to pieces the flesh of life. Next, stoner guitar riffs create a thick sludge of noise on the creepy German Days. A bar room guitar riff quickly delves back into the dark, claustrophobic jam it always intended to be. It is a perfect soundtrack to Halloween night, as a great Homme guitar solo blasts away beneath Iggy’s foreboding “oohs,” drifting by like a ghost ship out in the ocean.

Chocolate Drops is a ballad full of world-weary wisdom that features a delightful call and response between the two main architects, Iggy and Homme. There is talk of, “when every day is judgement day” and “when your love of life is an empty beach,” while a pained guitar line stumbles around in the background. It then breaks down among the ringing of funeral bells; “There is nothing in the dark, it’s just an old excuse.” The fragility of the circumstances of ageing is laid bare here in unnerving honesty; it sees Iggy grappling with the very notions of mortality. Assessing a time when all those dreams have either been achieved or have perished into the past, when all those lovers have long since vanished, and when you’re left with nobody but yourself.

An Iggy and Homme duet , Paraguay, sees their voices mix together hypnotically until a slow strum of guitar begins. Iggy then declares “I’m going to where sore losers go” while masterfully adding that all he needs to survive is a “bank account and tamales.” The album closer is the sound of withdrawal – a man who has seen and experienced everything he could ever have wanted to. He claims he “has no fear,” but for once you doubt his sincerity. There is a sadness to the escape while the piano trickles away delicately. Then, it deconstructs via a stop-start three minute epic, which sees Iggy morph into an angry man once again as he lays out all his issues with a world that he proposes he will soon leave behind. He is pretty much talking as he addresses everyone, perhaps even subconsciously himself too, in a scathing outro. “Everybody’s fucking scared. Fear eats all the souls at once. I’m tired of it. And I dream about getting away. To a new life. Where there’s not so much fucking knowledge. I don’t want any of this information. I don’t want you. No. Not anymore. I’ve had enough of you. Yeah, I’m talking to you.” A Homme guitar solo, which is one of the best of his career so far, then rips in to go along with the sound of a band giving it everything – one last hurrah.

For what is reportedly his final studio album ever, this is a dark reflection of a man who is tired of his surroundings, defiantly spitting in the face of all convention until the very end. And really, would you expect anything less from Iggy Pop?

Post Pop Depression is out on March 18th via Loma Vista.

Image: NME