The punk genius confronts the grim reaper with gnarly poetry and sassy garage rock
“I feel like I’m closing up after this,” says 68-year-old Iggy Pop of ‘Post Pop Depression’, his collaboration album with Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme, Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders and LA multi-instrumentalist Dean Fertita. Does that mean it’s his last ever release? Well…probably not. But almost certainly, this album marks the closing of the last great chapter in Iggy’s musical life – ‘The Stooges’, ‘The Idiot’, ‘Lust For Life’, ‘The Passenger’ and some of the most iconic performances in rock history – as we know it.
Pop sought out Homme after the two met awkwardly at the Kerrang! Awards some years ago, thinking he’d be a good writing partner and vibesman for his last roll of the dice. The two swapped notes over email for months (poetry, rock’n’roll war stories, demos), before Iggy turned up unannounced on Homme’s lawn, jumped in his car and drove to Rancho De La Luna studio deep in the Californian desert. There, the two aimed to make something brilliant out of nothing, with the depth of Iggy’s Bowie-produced 1977 proto-punk classics ‘The Idiot’ and ‘Lust For Life’, the sonic textures of QOTSA’s ‘Like Clockwork’ and the best backing band America could offer in 2016.
Brilliantly, that’s what ‘Post Pop Depression’ actually sounds like. Iggy’s vocals and lyrics are astounding – he’s like an angry young man all over again, and is far more gnarly and potent than any of his contemporaries. It’s an intelligent, sassy garage rock record that’s obsessed with two things: sex and death. “Your hourglass ass / And your powerful back / Your slant devil eyes / And the ditch down your spine”, goes the brilliant, Bowie-ish ‘Gardenia’. The same song sees Iggy refer to himself as “America’s greatest living poet”, but rather than throttle him for being tactless, you end up adhering to the sentiment. It’s because, in context, Pop appears bruised and scared here more than anything. Death, he sings, is “a pill that’s tough to swallow” (‘American Valhalla’), while ‘Break Into Your Heart’, eerily declares “Time is so tight, it’s closing in”.
Iggy’s always been to the point, lyrically (“I’m worth a million in prizes” – ‘Lust For Life’), but it’s still disturbing to hear him sound quite so wary of whatever’s around the corner. “I’ve nothing but my name”, he repeats at one point, sounding deep and ghoulish. Album centrepiece ‘Sunday’ is sprightlier: it features plastic pop go-go-girl backing vocals and a sweeping orchestral coda. It could have easily cropped up on Arctic Monkeys’ sleazy last album ‘AM’, had Homme shoulder-barged Alex Turner out of the songwriters chair.
Best of all is killer closing track ‘Paraguay’, a true gestation of everything that’s so thrilling about Homme and Pop individually, with Iggy spluttering his way to the very end. And if this is his final goodbye, it’s a truly mesmerising sign off. Lyrically it’s up there with Tarantino in the comic-brutality-as-punk-rock-sermon stakes: “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!”. Hilarious and cool all at once, Iggy comes across like a more congenial Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now on it. Grizzled. Defiant. Heroic. As parting statements go, ‘Post Pop Depression’ is solid gold proof of his genius.