Post Pop Depression Album Review Iggy Pop
Post Pop Depression Album Background
The Post Pop Depression Album, although released under the banner of Iggy Pop is, in fact a collaboration between Pop and Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme. Iggy Pop and Josh Homme met several years ago at the Kerrang! Awards. A text message from Pop to Homme tentatively suggested they should write music together. There followed several months of email exchanges of notes, stories, poetry and demos. Iggy even sent Homme a song-by-song discussion of the recording of The Idiot with a commentary on the other musicians on the record. The exchange of mail culminated in Iggy Pop turning up unannounced on Josh Homme’s lawn. A trip to the Rancho De La Luna studio in the Californian desert followed where the two laid down the principle aims of the new Iggy Pop album.
The idea was to follow the blueprint of the brilliant Iggy Pop David Bowie collaborations, The Idiot and Lust for Life. A studio band was completed with Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders, LA multi-instrumentalist Dean Fertita to accompany the little and large act of the diminutive 68-year-old Iggy Pop and 42-year-old 6ft 5in Josh Homme.
The pairing of Iggy Pop and Josh Homme is of mutual benefit. As a fan of Iggy’s early solo work, Homme gets to work with one of his idols. For Iggy Pop though, history seems to be repeating itself. Just like in the 1970s, when Iggy Pop and David Bowie cut The Idiot and Lust for Life, The Stooges had imploded and Iggy needed a mentor. David Bowie filled this role perfectly and also gave Iggy his first taste of professional large-scale touring and, more importantly mainstream exposure. So forty years later, Pop has found another red-head pop star to help him do the chat show rounds, reflect on his life and career and provide the creative stimulus to actually make a great record again.
It’s untrue to say Iggy has never made great music alone. The best and most underrated songs on 1990’s Brick by Brick and 1993’s American Caesar were solo compositions. His career has been peppered by great songs that express a more personal quality than some of his collaborations. That some of these songs have been hidden away on otherwise average solo releases only highlights their value. However, Iggy has been at his most consistent when working with a talented sidekick who is strong enough and talented enough to challenge and bring the best out of him. This can be seen with Ron Asheton on The Stooges and Fun House, James Williamson on Raw Power (and to a lesser extent on Kill City) and, of course David Bowie on The Idiot and Lust For Life. Happily, with the release of this Post Pop Depression album, we can add the name of Josh Homme to the list of successful Iggy Pop collaborators.
Post Pop Depression Songs
Whilst Iggy Pop is the godfather of punk, anyone who has listened to his BBC Radio 6 show or his recent solo releases will know that there is more to him than this. The songs on the Post Pop Depression album see Iggy Pop obsessed with sex and death. A continuation of the themes from recent releases such as Preliminaires and Ready to Die with The Stooges. Iggy sings better than he has done in a long time. His gnarled vocals sound genuinely angry and he’s upped his game lyrically from the last two Stooges records. The directness of the lyrics on this record serve to bear Iggy’s scars rather than the tactless nature of some of his musings on Ready to Die and The Weirdness.
Musically, Josh Homme has created an intelligent garage rock backdrop whilst veering away from hard rock. It’s certainly not a Queens of the Stone Age-style tear-up and, as with most post-Bowie era Iggy Pop albums it can leave a vague longing for a more Stooges aggression at first listen. However, the strength of Post Pop Depression lies with the foundations laid by the rhythm section of Dean Fertita’s looping bass and Matt Helders solid drumming.
Recorded in secret so that if Pop or Homme didn’t like the results they could “bury it in the desert”, as the name suggests, Post Pop Depression is dark and melancholic. The album title is rumoured to be a refection of how Josh Homme and the other musicians felt after Pop had left the recording studio. However, the title is also likely to be in anticipation of how Iggy will feel when he does finally retire the Iggy Pop persona and become James Osterberg again. We’ve already established that this process already started with Iggy’s more recent releases but whereas those records could be a little dry and subdued, on Post Pop Depression he makes more of a bang.
Break Into Your Heart
Apparently the inspiration for the opening track on the Post Pop Depression album came from Josh Homme and what his thoughts were about Iggy Pop. Homme’s preconceived ideas about Iggy womanizing, drugs and his career highs and lows proved to be the inspiration to start writing the music. The feeling that the end is nigh is set immediately on this opener as Iggy declares“Time is so tight, it’s closing in”. Break Into Your Heart gives us the first comparison to the Bowie albums and could quite possibly have fit on The Idiot with its vaguely Kraftwerk-like synthesizers.
Again, the catalyst was Josh Homme and a bass line he’d written which spurred Iggy on to complete the song. This thumping bass and shuffling drums make Gardenia the most instantly satisfying on the record with Iggy’s singing again evoking David Bowie. The hooks and Iggy’s playful lyric evoking images of seedy motels make the song a minor classic. The line “America’s greatest poet was ogling you all night”, is not the sound of Iggy bigging himself up. It is a reference to Allen Ginsberg with whom Iggy Pop found himself out one night watching a stripper of whom he goes onto describe: “Your hourglass ass / And your powerful back / Your slant devil eyes / And the ditch down your spine”. Just an average night in the life of Iggy Pop!
We get the second Bowie/Iggy blast from the past from the chiming oriental guitar evoking memories of China Girl from The Idiot. American Valhalla came from a conversation Iggy had with Homme about the concept of Valhalla being that you have to do something brave to get in there. The title of this track carries the expectation that it will come with crashing drums and crunching guitars but is a much more subtle affair. In this case, one presumes that Iggy Pop is the hero about to enter Valhalla at the end of his career, having paved the way for countless artists with his ground-breaking but undecorated band The Stooges. “Is there anybody in there? Who do I have to kill?” muses Iggy as he wonders what he has to do to get in this place. Weary of what might be around the corner, death, claims Iggy, is “a pill that’s tough to swallow”. Whereas the line “I’ve nothing but my name” is apt because Iggy’s creative output has been in decline but his reputation is still strong.
In the Lobby
According to Josh Homme, this was one of the most collaborative moments on the whole Post Pop Depression album. The song title comes from the Homme’s view that music is similar to hotel lobby music. If that’s the case then it’s punky lobby music. “I hope I’m not losing my life tonight,” sings, or rather, shrieks Iggy in keeping with the death-obsessed mood.
Sunday is the centrepiece of Post Pop Depression. More upbeat, yet the pop backing vocals and orchestral touches belie a darker piece of work. “This house is as slick as a senator’s statement” sneers Iggy at the beginning over Josh Homme’s spiky guitar lines. The last song to be recorded during the sessions, Josh Homme expressed his disappointment when recording ended because that was it, there would be no more.
Vulture was the one song on the record that Iggy Pop brought complete. Iggy played it in the studio exactly the way he wrote it – acoustically and the rest of the band built the sound around that. The final execution of the song has a theatrical, spaghetti-western soundtrack feel and the track overall isn’t completely successful, sounding somewhat convoluted.
Written and recorded before David Bowie’s death, Iggy Pop was reminiscing about his time in Berlin with Bowie recording Lust for Life and The Idiot. German days starts well enough with a Led Zeppelin style hard rock riff at the beginning but the song unfortunately descends into something of a mess. We can forgive Iggy a moment of sentimentality but the churn of this song see the Post Pop Depression album lose momentum. Coming straight after Vulture, the record sags at this point.
Chocolate Drops started life as a riff that Josh Homme had for years but didn’t know what to do with it. A mark of the true collaborative nature of the Post Pop Depression album is that the song was made when Iggy suggested a new slant to the music and added the lyrics. A warning about the superficial nature of success, “When you get to the bottom, you’re near the top/ the shit turns into chocolate drops,” goes the chorus. After fifty years in the business, Iggy should know a thing or two about the nature of fame but the song is let down by this rather terse lyric. However, “When your love of life is an empty beach, don’t cry / When your enemy has you within his reach, don’t die” is about as optimistic as it gets on this album, echoed by call and response backing vocals from the band.
“I just couldn’t take no more / Of whipping fools and keeping score”, so Iggy sets the scene for Paraguay. Paraguay’s Spanish guitar strums along at an ambling pace as Iggy heads for the sunset until it abruptly changes into a foul-mouthed coda. It seems Iggy couldn’t resist reprising his Stooges persona one more time for a startling parting shot. Apparently, Pop and Homme debated whether or not to leave this sweary finale in the final version. Whilst initially amusing and acknowledging that at 68 years old, Iggy Pop is 68 years old and can say whatever he wants, the rant becomes a little embarrassing. On reflection, not the best way to end the best Iggy Pop album for many years.
Post Pop Depression Album Conclusion
In the run up to the release of the Post Pop Depression album Iggy Pop was quoted in the press release as saying “I feel like I’m closing up after this”. Maybe this won’t be the final act of Iggy Pop’s 50-year career but it seems certain to be his last major release. The music was never intended to be heavy rock and since The Stooges break up in 1974, Iggy’s more successful albums have been those that relied less on heavy riffing.
Now that the reformed Iggy and the Stooges have run their natural course, Iggy has reigned in his rock wild man a little to play a kind of elder statesman reflecting on his life and career. The music here is a much more honest representation of where Iggy Pop is in his life and career than either of his Stooges reunion albums. It’s also a clearer vision and better musically than his recent solo releases.
The entire Post Pop Depression album is around 42 minutes long with just nine songs in old-fashioned album length. This has the advantage that it sounds lean and focussed but the disadvantage of making the weaker moments stand out more.
The first five songs are great and reach much loftier heights than anything he’s done for years. Even the weaker songs can’t detract from what is a very good record. If this really is to be the last Iggy Pop album then he will go out on a high. However, it remains to be seen whether this really is the end just as Iggy seems to have rediscovered his voice.
Rated Sound gives Post Pop Depression by Iggy Pop a rating of 8/10.
Post Pop Depression(2016) Track Listing
1. Break Into Your Heart
3. American Valhalla
4. In the Lobby
7. German Days
8. Chocolate Drops