Consider the other great invincible – Keith Richards – and what his last album Crosseyed Heart stood for. Why does the idea of a new Iggy Pop album, or a David Bowie album incite such an excited reaction? Maybe it’s because Pop and Bowie have continued to stay relevant, whether that’s exploring new sonic territories, refining past ones and extracurricular activities such as Pop’s excellent radio show. For his new (supposedly last) album, Pop has recruited his modern imitators – both Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme and Dean Fertita and Arctic Monkey’s Matt Helders for his troupe of misfits, though now Pop is less interested with pushing the boundaries of depraved proto-punk and more like walking the same hard-rock-funk-strut as Josh Homme. It’s the completion of the circle – the mentored stole from the mentor and now the mentor is cribbing from the mentored. Pop’s vocals are no longer the freakish shriek of the Stooges, and they haven’t been for a while, but now he occupies the role of the low-intoning preacher. It’s less direct and more ominous.
The recruitment of Homme, Fertita and Helders is probably the best thing going for Post Pop Depression. They breathe life into songs such as ‘Vulture’, which otherwise would have been a standard spaghetti-western-freakout. Helders’ standout contribution to Arctic Monkeys’ last album, his backing vocals, make a welcome return, and Homme’s classic-rock riffs are thrown around like he’s back in the Queens, which might sound like Homme’s not pushing boundaries for another project, but it fits the persona of Iggy Pop so well that those guitar sounds would be missing here if he hadn’t deployed them. Pop’s message and imagery can come across as heavy-handed, with the titular ‘Vulture’ a loose comparison to corporate executives picking the meat from the bones. Pop returns to his criticism of the elite many times during Post Pop Depression, with him singing ‘Slick as a senator’s statement’ and ‘As cold as a corporate lawsuit’ on the dance-punk of ‘Sunday’. It might seem like an easy target for Pop to attack at this point in his career, and it often is. The corporate slamming is fairly placed, but it sounds more like generic leftism than a calculated and interesting take on the corporate structure. Pop could have delivered a statement, but instead it’s more of a hodgepodge of ideas.
The marriage of the Pop/Homme sensibilities with a tension crawling underneath the entire track [‘Break Into Your Heart’]
Then, out of the blue, he takes time to look back on his creative peak in Berlin with David Bowie. In this lyrically minimalist and bass-driven song, he sings ‘Berlin and Christ / Champagne on ice’ and ‘Brilliant brains / and the end of pain’, putting into words the disorganised but productive hedonism of his time in Berlin. He doesn’t sugarcoat the experience, but leaves it to the listener to interpret the meaning. Pop might not be typically known for ambiguity in his lyrics – he did write ‘Search And Destroy’ after all – but this is a twist that harks back to his early peaks in Lust For Life and The Idiot. He’s rarely revisited the mood that those two records capture, but there are palpable attempts to recapture the spirit. It’s a brave move. Other times, it feels more like Homme is running the entire operation from head to toe. His funky rock is all over Post Pop Depression, still gathering up the lingering traces of the Queens last record …Like Clockwork especially on a track like ‘Chocolate Drops’ with its wire-thin solo. At times like this, it’s more like a Queens Of The Stone Age song featuring Iggy Pop.
On the other side, there’s traces of Pop’s legacy competing with Homme. Lead single ‘Break Into Your Heart’ shows up with its hard-rock steady pace and Pop’s vocals commanding the scene from the very start, with a lyric like ‘I’m gonna break into your heart / I’m gonna crawl under your skin’ sounding like the classic nihilistic Pop, albeit with less of a shriek and a piano bridge that wouldn’t go amiss on a James Bond theme song. This is the marriage of the Pop/Homme sensibilities with a tension crawling underneath the entire track. It’s also an unabashed pop song in the same vein of ‘Lust For Life’ or ‘The Passenger’. The same goes for ‘Gardenia’ with its almost Smiths-like guitar tremolo and lush instrumentation that lives up to the title. Pop chews his words before he sings them, spitting them out in staggered lumps – ‘Cheap purple baby-doll dress’ – each word with pauses in between. He doesn’t attempt to keep time, he lets the words fall out as they please and it works perfectly.
It’s a shame to see Pop retiring at this point in his life as he’s clearly got some life left in him yet. Instead of shrieking his way to an early death of depravity, he’s taken a left turn to become the respected godfather of punk. The pairing of Pop and Homme is a logical and perfect union and its almost a shame that Homme wasn’t featured as a key player in the title, why not a supergroup? Maybe Pop wants his last project to be his own, and it certainly has the characteristics of an Iggy Pop sound and not just as an addition to the group. Post Pop Depression is nine tightly packed tracks with no messing around, even the longer tracks have some merit to them, ‘Sunday’ has an out-of-place and kind of funny orchestral outro and ‘Paraguay’ is pretty much an Iggy Pop soapbox for the the last two minutes where he gets as foulmouthed as ever. Pop’s past the point of burning out young, but by the looks of it, he isn’t going to fade away either.
Funnel Recommends: Break Into Your Heart / German Days / Paraguay