Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
The punk icon delivers a forward-thinking rumination on death and legacy with Josh Homme riding shotgun
Iggy Pop’s advancing years have failed to have a stultifying effect on his productivity over the past decade – between his own work and that with both temporarily revived iterations of The Stooges, this record is now his fifth in ten years – but it’s been a good long while since the man's new work was met with this kind of clamour.
You’d have to assume the reasons for this are threefold; one, he’s drafted in Josh Homme and his Queens of the Stone Age associate Dean Fertita, as well as Arctic Monkeys’ Matt Helders, to serve as his backing band; Homme also sat behind the production desk and co-wrote several songs, bringing in his own ideas and melding them with Pop’s. Self-financed and free of external pressures, the album announcement came out of nowhere; reason number two for the flurry of excitement around its release.
The third and final, meanwhile, is a little more profound; Post Pop Depression finds Pop obsessed with his own legacy and exit (from the planet and the industry). Inevitably, events leading up to the LP’s completion lend those themes an added resonance.
Around its initial unveiling, Homme noted that finishing up work on the album was a welcome distraction from the emotional trauma felt in the aftermath of the attack on Le Bataclan last November, in which his bandmates in Eagles of Death Metal were caught up.
Pop, meanwhile, lost his close friend and collaborator David Bowie in January; the global outpouring of grief in response – on a scale unseen since John Lennon’s murder – will not have been lost as he prepares to take these songs on the road.
Still a potent live performer as he approaches his 69th birthday, there’s something peculiar about Pop contemplating his mortality; he’s in that class of rock star you expect to keep going forever. He stares out from an ancient, lived-in face, but retains his infamous torso that ages like a good leather jacket. Homme puts his ego aside to ride shotgun; the last time he paired with any legend of this calibre on record, with Them Crooked Vultures, he was still very much front and centre. So much of Homme's appeal is wrapped up in his rock and roll persona, arrogance incarnate, singing with a permanent sneer and lending a languid, sleazy strut to his guitar playing.
With the exception of the seldom serious EoDM, Homme hasn’t been a sideman since his Kyuss days. A namesake (but not a cover) from his old band's catalogue, Gardenia is one of the album’s standouts, delving into unchartered territory for both participants; the guitars swell in a way that puts you more in mind of My Bloody Valentine. If a sojourn into shoegaze seems like anathema for either Pop or Homme, it’s not a one-off here, either.
Before Iggy even utters a word, the rumination that runs through Post Pop Depression is largely reflected by the shifting palette of its players; on Sunday, the band are backed by pirouetting strings, while In The Lobby is off-kilter, almost jazzy, with a swinging groove courtesy of Helders. Vulture, meanwhile, is bluesy enough to suggest they’re channeling the Grinderman swagger; Break Into Your Heart and American Valhalla are probably the two clearest examples of the weathered drawl that Pop affects for much of the duration. These days, there’s a campy, theatrical quality to his voice not a million miles away from Bowie or Lou Reed in their later years.
Homme’s relative subservience is largely to the record’s benefit – he’s clearly happy to ride shotgun for Pop – and the symbiotic alliance renders Post Pop Depression a beguiling listen, fascinatingly experimental, thematically compelling and a deeply intimate portrait of one of the all-time great rock wildmen coming to terms with the idea of retirement. He reveals his motives in a blaze of glory when all hell breaks loose on the six-minute Paraguay; Iggy casts off his cares and the bags are packed, he's already bought that one-way ticket to South America.
As the Queens contingent summon the cocky stride of their day job on the back half, we find out why – Iggy’s sick of us, and he’s not having it any more. “I’ve had enough of you. Yeah, you!” he climbs over the fourth wall with an ad-libbed spoken word rant. "You take your motherfuckin’ laptop and just shove it into your goddamn foul mouth! Down your shit-heeled gizzard, you fuckin’ phony, two-faced, three-timing piece of turd...because I’m sick, and it’s your fault!”
He’s into full-on tirade mode in Post Pop Depression's dying seconds. If this really is Iggy's swansong, how fitting that he should choose the moment like his old friend, entirely on his own terms, the same firebrand we’ve always known, raging against convention one last time.