Iggy Pop is often thought of as a great, iconic performer and a frontman to pin your dreams to – regardless of how good his music is. Everybody knows The Stooges, everybody knows Iggy’s late-70s Bowie-produced Berlin albums, everybody knows his torso and that he’s got a big dick and a penchant for taking even more drugs than Keith Richards in his goggle-eyed prime. But people don’t know much else.
Which is a shame, because Pop has actually been churning out fine albums and collaborations for over 45 years now. 1999’s loungey Avenue B, produced by Don Was of Was (Not Was) fame, is essential listening, as is his fine French jazz record Préliminaires from 2009. And that’s before you even get round to looking up (and really, you should) ‘Rolodex Propaganda’ and ‘Aisha’ – the two tracks Iggy put out with At The Drive-In and Death In Vegas around the turn of the millennium. They’re among the best things he’s ever done, and all of the above offers proof the ‘godfather of punk’ can turn his hand (voice?) to pretty much any genre in music and get something special out of it.
Post Pop Depression is, potentially, Iggy’s last ever album. “I feel like I’m closing up after this,” he told me in a Beats 1 radio interview in January (listen below).
It goes some way to explaining why Iggy sought out Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme to co-write Post Pop Depression and head up the recording sessions, which took place early last year. Homme and Pop swapped songwriting notes for months before finally meeting up at the QOTSA man’s home-from-home recording studio, Rancho De La Luna in the Californian desert in January 2015. They then recorded the nine tracks that make up the album over two week-long periods. Joining them on it? Arctic Monkeys sticksman Matt Helders and all round honorary Desert Sessions man Dean Fertita, the multi-instrumentalist who’s played with everyone from Jack White to QOTSA to Brendan Benson in recent years.
The band have already announced a sizeable tour where they’ll play the album in full alongside selected Iggy classics later this year, following its release on March 18. Oh, and if you were wondering, it’s called Post Pop Depression because Josh, Matt and Dean all missed Iggy so much in the weeks after wrapping it up.
Here at NME I’ve been lucky enough to have a sneak listen to the album – so here’s my rundown of what you can expect from it.
Break Into Your Heart
The second track to go online a few weeks ago, you’ll probably already know this one. It’s all about the groove when Helders comes in around the 21-second mark. Stark, dusty desert riffs merge with a crooning Ig. He sounds delectably mean on it.
Another track that’s already out there, and easily one of the best songs of 2016 so far. I first heard ‘Gardenia’ in early January, just before David Bowie died, and I couldn’t believe how much it sounded like Iggy’s masterful Thin White Duke-affiliated material of the 70s (The Idiot and Lust For Life). I reckon it’s about his missus, Nina Alu, judging by the amazing lyrics. Speaking of which, almost all the words on Post Pop Depression are impressive, with Iggy largely focussing on two traits, sex and death, but also delving deep into the past and present of pop culture. I could happily just re-print the lyrics to ‘Gardenia’ wholesale here, actually, but I’d probably get the sack. Instead, just listen to it:
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Kicking off with a ‘Hong Kong Garden’ style coda on vibraphone, this one’s weighted slightly more to Josh and Dean than Iggy, with a mean-ass Desert Sessions riff rumbling away in the centre. It’s a sad song lyrically, seemingly about growing old and hating it. “Death is the pill that’s hard to swallow,” muses Iggy at one point. “Is anybody in there? / And can I bring a friend? / I’m not the man with everything”. He ends it by growling – just like he does on ‘Aisha’ – and repeating the line “I’ve nothing but my name”. It’s dramatic and ominous-sounding.
In The Lobby
There’s more of a Stonesy vibe to this one, with Helders on shakers and some brilliant 12-string guitar if you listen really closely. It’s structured in three parts – a classic Iggy solo verse, Mick’n’Keef middle 8 (sample lyric: “And it’s all about the sex”) and a fine, fine chorus which rocks like The Strokes if they were playing ‘Reptillia’ at 33rpm instead of 45.
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The album centrepiece, and perhaps my favourite song on it. At six-minutes it’s epic compared to the other tracks, but features some wicked riffs from Josh and a gold standard bassline nicked straight out of disco kingpin Bernard Edwards’ back pocket, played by Dean. Tight like the best bits of Arctic Monkeys’ AM, it’s also pushed along by some weird and unorthodox tom-tom drumming from Matt. There are about a million different backing vocals going on too, some from Josh and some from some gorgeously poppy session singers. As a fusion with Iggy’s baritone croon it works perfectly, especially on the minute-long fade-out, when the backing singers are suddenly joined by a beautiful, acid-flecked cinematic orchestral refrain which could have come from a Fellini dream sequence. It’s the last thing you’d expect to hear on this album and it works brilliantly.
The token acoustic song, and the most raw, lo-fi thing on Post Pop Depression. The track uses the vultures as a metaphor for death in the same way they were used in The Jungle Book, but Iggy’s vocal charisma stops it from sounding clichéd. There are some Specials-influenced backing vocals (like those on ‘Ghost Town’) and it ends with an agonised, elongated yodel from Ig that some people might find a bit weird but Morrissey would probably be well into. I’m with him on it.
The most stoner rock track on the album, this one’s got lyrics about Pope Benedict, German fast-food places (Schnellimbiss), “champagne-on-ice”, the peepholes in speakeasies and a brilliant line where Iggy and Josh come together and sound like zombies (“Brilliant brains and the end of pain / Germany must germinate”).
Weirdly, both in lyrical metaphors and overall ‘feel’, this one seems remarkably close to Outkast’s ‘Roses’. Maybe that’s Helders’ influence. Jaunty minor-chord piano merges with guitars that ape the riff from Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’, while Iggy and Josh almost duet with each other, Pete’n’Carl style, before it all breaks down around the 90 second mark and a few funeral bells ring in sombre fashion. Atmospheric.
TOTALLY impressive, and one of the best album closers I’ve heard in a long time. ‘Wild animals never wonder why, they just do’ is the sentiment of the track, and with it Iggy effectively resigns from life, packs his suitcase and fucks off to south America to see out the rest of his days in peace. “See, I just couldn’t take no more,” he sings, “I just thought, well, fuck it man / I’m gonna pack my soul and scram”. All he needs, brilliantly, are “Tamales and a bank account”, and with it he’ll finally have no fear, no stress, no worries or hang-ups.
There’s some evocative, woozy backing vocals from Josh as the four-chord track rumbles on behind Iggy, until out of nowhere, we suddenly get skyrocketed deep into classic Stooges territory for the three minute outro. It’s three of the best minutes Iggy’s ever committed to tape, by the way, and behind his guttural, primeval wailing, Josh is letting rip on guitar, playing one of his best ever solos.
Check these lyrics out, which are incredible, and keep in mind this is the last song on (probably) Iggy Pop’s last ever album. It’s an insanely cool way to bow out:
“There’s nothing awesome here
Not a damn thing
There’s nothing new
Just a bunch of people scared
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
I’ve had enough of you
Yeah, I’m talking to you
I’m gonna go to Paraguay,
To live in a compound under the trees
With servants and bodyguards who love me
Free of criticism
Free of manners and mores
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
And I’m gonna go heal myself now
So there you have it. From “I wanna be your dog” to “I wanna be your basic clod” in 47 years. Thanks for the music, Iggy.