Post Pop Depression - Iggy Pop (Loma Vista)
There are two reviews already here, each definitive in their own right. Beaten to the punch with little to argue about, all I can offer are some additional observations.
A quote in a pre-release interview has led many to believe that this is Iggy’s recording swansong. The neat closure of the record’s final song “Paraguay” supports the proposition…and don’t writers love that sort of shit. If “Post Pop Depression” is Iggy’s “LA Woman” - and a shambolic Jim Morrison performance with the Doors in Detroit had a big impact on Teenage Jim – then it’s a shutting of the creative loop.
Consider Iggy and Morrison. Instead of fucking off to Paris to write poetry, shoot smack and die in a bathtub, Iggy is supposedly fucking off to South America to sip fine wine and spend his cash. Deservedly so. You can keep physically throwing yourself into your work like he does for only so long.
Even if talk of his retirement is premature, “Paraguay” is still like a scorpion with a poisonous sting in its tail. I mean the caustic closing spoken-word rap that runs over the top of the repeating (ironic?) chorus about animal behaviours. It’s clearly directed at “YOU”. Whether that’s the fans that have demanded and received so much from Jim over the years or the people who run the music industry, with whom Iggy has enjoyed a fractious, symbiotic congress, is open-ended. They get a thorough going-over in the dust-dry “Vulture” anyway.
“Paraguay” is a corollary to “Open Up And Bleed” but this is not a Stooges record and you’ll be severely disappointed if you buy a copy and assume it is. Ig’s prodigious but spotty solo output has always disproportionately suffered from being compared to his alma mater. It’s an impossible benchmark and it’s best waved away, imperiously. Judge this and every other record on its own merits, and so on.
Which are considerable. It’s Crooning Jim at work, of course, with his booming baritone. Not manic Iggy. Some of you will have a problem with that. The music is big on grooves – I mean big, pliable bass-lines and drum feels that swing. The mood is sombre, reflective and almost Gothic in parts. The pre-release schtick about the lyrics and production recalling Iggy’s Berlin period albums, “Lust For Life” and “The Idiot”, rings true.
Now, have a look at the packaging. The front cover is Iggy and his three band-mates. Much of the pre-promotion has involved collaborator Josh Homme. Doesn’t this seem unusual? Whether it’s been by accident, Iggy solo albums have never given profile to his bands. For the most part, his “gangs” have been hired hands, although in some cases (the “Party” era and the Trolls of “American Caesar”) they’ve also been long-serving road warriors, sometimes thoroughly involved in the writing.
“Post Pop Depression” is the first time since “Fun House” that Ig’s shared the cover with other people. It probably reflects that the record was worked up in partnership and was independently recorded and produced, but it also might indicate that this time the quality control process was more collaborative. If so, it’s worked.
There were two problems with “The Weirdness”, the much-anticipated “comeback” album by The Stooges. Iggy’s vocals sounded hollow and phoned-in. The lyrics seemed like a throwback to the days when the Stooges were young and dumb and full of small-town ennui. The reality was that the singer, at least, was living a comfortable life between his two houses in Miami and holiday homes in Mexico and the Bahamas. The songs sounded contrived. They also needed more unrestrained Ron. Take “ATM”: The biggest problem at Iggy’s age wasn’t an empty bank balance but Jim forgetting his PIN.
“Ready To Die” righted the thematic wrongs and threw in some musical curve balls. No such problems arise on “Post Pop Depression”. Iggy is comfortable with both his legacy and his impending mortality. He has five-fifths of fuck-all to prove. He sounds focussed and forthcoming.
“Gardenia” was released as a teaser and sounded, to my ears, a little banal. It is when it’s heard on its own; in context, it’s a lot better. “Break Into Your Heart” was put out there early, too, and is moody and nuanced. The whole album grows over a handful of listens - and that’s a lot more than you can say for “Beat ‘Em Up” or “Naughty Little Doggie”. Forget them and make no mistake: "Post Pop Depression" is in Iggy's top four solo band albums. - The Barman
How can I best describe Iggy Pop's new album "Post Pop Depression"? Well. How about we roll with the hype and try this? You could imagine an alternate universe where Pop followed "The Idiot" and "Lust for Life" with this disc.
If you listened to interviews with Pop and his new buddy Stone Queen, Josh Homme, that seems to be the line they are selling. They're taking the album out on tour and rumour has it they're throwing some "Idiot" and "Lust" songs into the mix. It's not an entirely coherent theory but it holds some water. The three discs certainly bear a family resemblance.
Compare “German Days” to the “Dum Dum Boys” and you’ll see a kind of lyrical/narrative continuation. Where in “Mass Production” Iggy demanded a girl just like you, this time, by the end of the disc he gets to “Paraguay” and he wants nothing to do with you. (Or me for that matter.) The despair has changed form but the songs share spider web bonds across decades.
If you think "The Idiot" was a stinking pile of shit, you'll probably have a problem with this new record. It's not as if a few people haven't taken offense at Pop's Berlin dalliance over the years. I remember one Ron Peno (nee Hellcat) visited his displeasure on the nearest Bowie record he could smash up at the Funhouse.
"Listen to what he's done to Iggy!"
But fair's fair. Peno's career path into Died Pretty suggests he at least took a second listen to the material somewhere down the line. Besides, back at the dawn of 1977, even people who liked "The Idiot" seemed to have trouble justifying why they did. Professional reviewers described it as being some kind of hilarious piss-take of disco. (I know. But it was a different time.) They didn't want to be seen as critical of the ascendant Godfather of Punk but couldn't work out why it didn't fit in with the thrash and burn narrative they felt obliged to stamp on the new genre.
But there were kids listening. And I think it's fair to say that included everyone from Joy Division, the Banshees and Public Image Limited through to the Human League, Gary Numan and Soft Cell. For some, that'll justify lighting a match to another round of Nuremberg style record burning parties. I hear their angry clickety clicks on keyboards now. The one finger typing mouth breathers of the apocalypse. Certainly, I've already read some opinions on Facebook that seem to have taken great umbrage to Iggy's latest outing. They hated "Ready to Die" too. And "The Weirdness" and "Skull Ring". Mysteriously, they all like "Blah, Blah, Blah". (I’ll get around to that in a moment.) It's like there's a whole sea of people whose musical taste died in their arse when the Sydney Trade Union Club went belly up and they haven't bought a new record since. I think there’s a good case to set time of death at the point you stop listening to new music.
Pop has a history of strange bedfellows and flirtations with the hipper than thou and whatever gronk guitarist he trips over in a bar. Fear not. Those concerned about the Queens of the Stone Age connection should chill the fuck out. This is an Iggy Pop record (as the parental warning stickers used to say). The first major obstacle to the third in a trilogy argument I made earlier is the complete lack of cocaine on this disc. Whilst QOTSA (as they like to be called) had a break out hit with the stuff, you could take this album home to meet your mother. "The Idiot" was steeped in a weird blend of white powder numbness and psychosis. If you've never done coke and want to know what it's like, drink three triple espressos, stay up until four in the morning and play "Nightclubbing" on repeat. After an hour or two, you'll know.
The second major obstacle to the trilogy argument is, simply put, that this material is tried and tested Iggy style stuff. If you stripped Blah, Blah, Blah of its mid-eighties (over)production excess, the new album sits happily beside it. “Brick by Brick” is even more a template than ‘The Idiot’. The single (if that’s what you call them these days), “Gardenia” is a sister to that album’s “Candy”. (Or maybe a brother given she’s taller and stronger). Even Iggy’s first return to rock album “New Values” featured “How do ya fix a broken part” and “The Endless Sea”, both of which would have slotted into “Post Pop Depression” without so much as blinking.
Though Iggy remains cantankerous throughout the new album, he sounds cleaner, saner and healthier than ever. He's rattling on the bars of his cage only to discover the cage is his life and getting out may not be all it's cracked up to be. He may still scream and shout but he has got at least a shred of dignity. He’s probably doing yoga rather than turning tricks in a nurse’s costume. He’s comfortable in his croon these days and the songs are written around it.
Lyrically and musically the ghost of David Bowie haunts the album. The backing vocals mimic the thin white duke. A lot of the guitar riffs hark back to the big geometric riffs of Robert Fripp on "Scary Monsters". Unsurprisingly, talk of death floats heavy in the lyrics. That said, with Pop, death has always found a way into his lyrics.
Now, with all this said, “Post Pop Depression” has a huge advantage over much of Pop’s ‘80s and ‘90s material in that it’s consistent, to the point and all killer. From the opening track, Pop promises to Break into your Heart and Crawl under your skin. Whilst he succeeds admirably in this, (I’m sorry Deniz) he doesn’t burn right through your mind or leave you crying.
Once again, this is highly recommended. It’s also hilarious. Listen to it on headphones. All the off mic cursing. Like he missed the note and they dropped in him but left the expletive as a monument to error. - Bob Short
The backstory to “Post Pop Depression” (surely a pun) is the return of the Stooges, their constant touring and the hoo-hah around the return from 2006-13. That’s longer than the original outfit lasted. Small wonder that, with the mild response to the Stooges’ last two studio LPs (get them, you idiot), that Ig wants to move somewhere else. He’s worked for the fans, now it’s time to get back to himself.
Interesting chain of events, with Ig teaming up with that chap Josh Homme (guitar/bass) from Queens Of The Stone Age. Dean Fertita (QOTSA/Dead Meadow) contributed guitar. Mat Helders of Actic Monkeys played drums. I know a lot of people who would publicly never admit that they have all of QOTSA's albums…I’m not one of them, and I’m not really interested.
That said, the Internettery quotes Ig as saying that Homme “took me to a place I’d never been”, and Homme states that their brief “was to go where neither of us had gone before. That was the agreement. And to go all the way “.
Well, that’s interesting, because the nods to Pop/Bowie’s The Idiot and Lust For Life are quite clear. And if you don’t know why this is important in terms of musical history, I’m not gonna help you.
So…where’s this new place? Well, we gotta look backward a little for that.
First, did you buy the last Stooges studio album “Ready To Die”? No? I had it bought for me, and it took until a couple of weeks ago (really, nearly three years after it came out) to finally shrug off the expectation and listen to it. The weight of ‘Oh, god, it’ll be dreadful’ was heavy. It wasn’t, of course.
“Ready To Die” is … a solid, stinky, glam-fuck squealy gentle ugly thing. Every Guns ’n’ Roses fan should buy it, just like those fuckers should own the first few Rose Tattoo LPs, and “X Aspirations”. Then, of course, they could put the GNR records in an oven. Mind you, I could never understand the fuss over G ’n’ R. I thought the Runaways were far better as a rock’n’roll outfit, certainly had better songs and seemed more honest. Ah, a world where the Runaways were rock gods and the Gunners flipped burgers and hash browns…
You should have bought “Ready to Die”. You still should. There’s some great tracks on there; the weight, of course, of ‘the Stooges’ legacy’ meant that while every Stooge fan wouldn’t have shelled out, “Ready to Die” was a mean crossover machine which the industry ignored. Which is a pity, since I would have loved to see Iggy do “DD’s” on some lame show like MTV, complete with stacked dirty dancers with Iggy worshipping beneath them.
See, so many lefty folk think Iggy’s being droll and ironic (maaan) but …he’s often being straight. You can see the Jim peeping out from between the Iggy’s pumping limbs. ‘“ wish life could be Swedish magazines’ is a deadpan throwaway line which everyone laughs at. But there’s more than a grain of truth there; the song “I’m a Conservative” was always straight, even if it did feel droll. And so, “Ready to Die” (the CD) was heartfelt; hints and nods toward the classic Stooges, but fitting in with the mainstream rock. Yes, there’s a certain deadpan humour (which is another reason why Australians took to the Iggster) but there’s also a vulnerability there.
There’s a little more out there about “Post Pop Depression” in La-La-Net Land, with Pop examining his life as a constantly touring entertainer, wondering if he’d been useful to others, if he was still useful, and whether or not he is at all useful to himself. Those of us who have read Paul Trynka’s biography of him will recall that, if you hadn’t been a fan and had picked up the book, ‘useful’ is not really the term you’d use for Iggy. ‘Satyr’ would be one, or ‘little lost lamb’ … or ‘self-destructive [fill in the blank adjectives]’… but as he said all those years ago on Dinah Shore’s show in 1977, “I make a real good piece of art”.
However. Let’s do this thing with as open a mind as we can muster, and see what the album brings.
“Break Into Your Heart”
Having seen QOTSA once at a Big Day Out and not being remotely moved by them (the man was naked as well), is probably not the best admission to make. Apart from a few nods to Ig’s earlier work (there are a few) and I assume ditto for Josh, “Break Into Your Heart” is a grower, a low growler. And… as I indicated earlier, there have been clear signs for some time that Ig is “sick of it” - that is, the job of being Iggy. Tthis was evident long before “Preliminaires” (which I didn’t buy, or haven’t. I’m beginning to think I should - No, don't bother - ED). So what we seem to be hearing, at least on the first song, is Jim. Not Ig. In fact, if you do assume the title “Post Pop Depression” is a pun, this could prove to be an incredibly personal record.
And this is revelatory in the same way the song “The Dum-Dum Boys” was revelatory (and, say, “Cold Metal” wasn’t); the same sort of personal which gave us Pop and Williamson’s “Kill City” (particularly the second issue, which is just fabulous), or The Endless Sea, or “Five Foot One”.
That said, a lot of Iggy fans will prefer “Cold Metal” to “The Dum-Dum Boys”, and if you’re one of them, I suggest you leave quietly now. If you like The “Idiot”-era, stay. If you dug “Kill City” and “New Values” too, and those more personal songs Iggy does, stay. There will be a few of you who, like me, are awed by the overlap. Stay.
Those of you with no background or opinion about Iggy or Josh (yeah, like that’s a reality on www.I94bar.com), you’ll probably enjoy this. “Break Into Your Heart” is a strong opening song, slow and powerful, and you can imagine the band doing it on the telly. Solid crossover, and the kind of song you’ll remember for years. Which isn’t too far removed from reality if the band do tour this month, as they’ve promised. Be nice to see if they can take it around the world. Be good to see Ig performing as Jim, too; that I’d like to see. See, “Post Pop Depression” is a lyric-driven album, with central themes and sub-themes…
“Gardenia” starts like a sort of early John Foxx with guitars. This is another rather groovy kinda thing with tons of visual imagery; the focus I guess is Ig’s confessional…“all I want to do is tell Gardenia what to do tonight’”…which frankly doesn’t sound very nice. Given that Josh asked Ig to write a pile of things about his time in Germany with Bowie,
“Gardenia” seems like a refraction of an inevitably doomed relationship. Like we all have. No? You’re lucky… it’s a savage reflection, and Jim reveals himself as the aural poet some of us always knew he was, ever since that first LP. I’m beginning to notice what Josh is doing with his guitar, too. There’s a strange … influence thing from Bowie’s own guitar from that ’76-77 period.
American Valhalla starts like a drunken China Girl, then ducks its head and nose-dives for the gutter, where the impoverished veterans of the 20th Century American Civil War lie. Like I say, you gotta listen to the lyrics. I’m not quoting them for you.
Well, maybe just one. When Jim intones, a la Iggy,”’I’ve nothing but my name”, this could equally apply to Josh or almost any famous rock’n’roller or sleb; once all is said and done, and the touring’s over, the roadies paid, the blackmailers killed and the money counted, there’s an essential emptiness. What’s left? What was all that running around about? What did I do, in the end? What is, exactly, my own personal identity?
I guess that’s why Jim retired to Miami, among other reasons, where he won’t be noticed as much and can just be more or less himself.
“In The Lobby” swings into action like a trapeze artiste; the first song where we notice the limitations to Jim’s voice, partly because of what he’s trying to do. Hard thing, really, to walk away from r’n’r rant and bellow. And I’m telling you, “In the Lobby” is a rough world, like a ’70s Cold War tension-thriller, with savage spetznatz chaps with lopsided faces clumping up the stairs toward you… I may have digressed. Love the spiky, spindly guitar and the simple, well-picked piano too. An intense juggernaut.
“Sunday” is where Josh and Ig really flick back and forth between each other, with a simple, rolling beat shoving them down the hill together. There’s some gorgeous harmonies here, too, strangely reminiscent of ‘70s disco and ’20s divas… in fact, we’re up to track five and we know “Post Pop Depression” will go on repeat. Over and over, as we try to get under the skin of the thing. The end of “Sunday” is bloody glorious, but I won’t spoil it. End, I expect, of Side One.
“Vulture” kicks Side Two into another world altogether. You could say that Iggy starts the proceedings, with a distinctly bonkers pair of guitars, drunk at a mexican wedding. I expect it’s Josh’s visceral electric guitar putting it up the acoustic tones; this is really good. I could listen to this all day. Am I gonna tell you what it’s about? Fuck off, go find out.
“German Days” begins with strangely cut-up Mott and glam guitar set against rather unsettling synth. Paranoia and fantasy and wealth and slums. Again, you’d have to be bigoted not to get into this. Overlaying the lot is Jim’s memoirish vocal and Josh Homme’s (or Dean Fertita’s) lyrical, slicing guitar.
“Chocolate Drops” begins with piano and drums, and Jim returns. If I’m reminded of anything, it’s Leonard Cohen or Lewis Furey, neither of which (I’m sure) were actual influences. Those harmonies. “Chocolate Drops” is a beautiful song, and you’ll find yourself singing the refrain. The simple procession of notes, the tune, just envelops you.
A simple blues choir opens “Paraguay”, the last song on Side Two; again we’re brought into Jim’s stripped-down world, or the rock star’s world, the star just wishing he could bugger off to where he’s not known; “pack my soul and scram. Hell, Nick Cave did that with Brazil; and it was probably a fine thing for him to do. And I might add that, even though this is an Iggy LP, I can hear Nick Cave or someone similar covering this. I won’t give the game away, but the break/change just after the middle is fucking great. And Ig/ Jim’s very personal, very pointed rant is bang on the money.
This feels like Jim’s most intimate music, and all I can say is that producer Josh Homme must be some kinda talented, smart man to be able to get this out of Jim; “it’s all your fault, and I’ve got to go and heal myself now”; you can hear the ragged, stretched emotion leaking out of the speakers.
On repeat, “Post Pop Depression” seems to do that wonderful thing, instead of having a ‘starting’ point and an ‘end’ point, “Break Into Your Heart” follows on and up from “Paraguay”, and the entire album starts that extraordinary climb up into the stratosphere. I doubt it’ll be a hit, but it deserves to be; at the very least, it’s a grower in the sense that “The Idiot” was - not just garnering airplay and chart status, but instantly stunning every time you put it on. Even now.
Iggy/Jim is clearly a wayward genius. But let’s hope Jim continues to call strange musicians out of the blue, just to see what he can do, where he can go. Not Kanye West, of course. But Prince, now that would be an interesting LP. Or, Lisa Kekaula. Or Neil Young. Or the Dirtbombs. Hell, Boris, if it comes to that.
As for the playing, I can think of no finer pair of compliments than to say that first, every guitarist who’s hell-bent on making their guitar their life and career needs to have this on their turntable, and second; I think I’m going to have to borrow a few QOTSA albums.
Barman, I can’t imagine you’ll like this one much. (Wrong - ED.) But “Post Pop Depression” rates six bottles, at least. It goes far, far beyond my expectations of either of the two collaborators, and I know I’ll be twisting this knife in the wound for years.
Don’t believe me? I got sent a download. I now have to buy the thing.
So do you. - Robert Brokenmouth