Whelp, this is it. If we’re to believe the man himself, Post Pop Depression is Iggy Pop’s last romp through the rock and roll mire. That fact stings, but there’s a healthy amount of reality behind the King Stooge’s announcement. At 68, Iggy hasn’t just turned over every possible stone, he’s decimated them all into a thousand pieces. He helped jumpstart punk rock, merged seamlessly into garage rock and new wave, found chart topping solo success, and later found his way back to punk rock with the reunited Stooges, all while setting a superhuman bar for ugly rock and roll showmanship. That all makes his 17th and potentially final record an incredibly hard act to follow. What else is there left to conquer?
Conventional wisdom would suggest Iggy would go out the way he came in. He started with the Stooges, and he’s devoted the last decade-plus of his career to bringing that band’s volatile sleaze rock into the 21st century. But rather than go down in a hedonistic blaze, the singer doesn’t take the obvious road out on Post Pop Depression. Instead, he and producer/collaborator Josh Homme take some surreal but invigorating steps out of his furious comfort zone.
The hush-hush affair, which also features contributions from Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Dean Fertita and Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders, was kept well under wraps, and the record’s nine tracks deliver on the surprise. There’s a great give-and-take at play between the two collaborators, with Iggy’s dangerousness and raw sexuality meshing with Homme’s hypnotic guitar rock. It’s a formula executed precisely on opening track “Break Into Your Heart”, in which Ig’s deep baritone treads over a twisted, echoey guitar. “I’m gonna break into your heart,” he sings. “I’m gonna crawl under your skin.” Leave it to the master to turn an otherwise sweet sentiment luridly on its head.
(Read: Iggy Pop in 10 Songs)
Given Homme’s hand in putting the record together, it’s little surprise that much of Post Pop Depression is colored with plenty of his main gig’s arid weirdness. There’s a dark dose of Palm Desert in tracks like “American Valhalla”, with its cryptic xylophone intro, and the Spaghetti Western eeriness of “Vulture”. It’s a record marked by various strains of strange, but that’s not to say there isn’t fun to be had. If there’s one commonality between Iggy and Homme, it’s how both know how to walk the line between fun and seedy. The duo delves in to Smiths-like indie pop on “Gardenia”, perhaps the record’s most uplifting track. Given this is an Iggy Pop record, there’s a certain sex appeal quotient that needs to be met. As such, “Sunday” rollicks and shakes with the kind of menacing swagger befitting the last of rock and roll’s tried and true bad boys.
But while Post Pop Depression is full of life, it’s also checkered with countless allusions to Iggy’s musical mortality. “I’ve nothing but my name,” he states with dead seriousness at the close of “American Valhalla”. “What is the problem if I disappear,” he asks on “In The Lobby”.
We could go on. But if those aren’t the words of someone who realizes he’s come to then end of a long road, then what are? A similar air of finality hangs over album closer “Paraguay”, which for the first two or three minutes lays bare his intention to ride off into the sunset in almost heartbreaking fashion. But just when it sounds as though rock music’s most celebrated wild man is limping out of the game with hunched shoulders, Iggy saves his snarling best for last. Backed by Homme’s vocals and a stomping fit of guitar blues, he implores critics, dissenters, and snarky know-it-alls to kiss his ass on the way out the door.
“I don’t need you,” he sneers in the record’s waning seconds. Maybe, but what about us? With the recent deaths of Bowie and Lemmy, Pop, by Homme’s own admission, is “the last of the one and onlys.” He’s damn right about that. In the end, Post Pop Depression feels like salt in an open wound. The only thing more frustrating about the thought of Iggy leaving the game is the ample proof he’s left behind that he can still deliver the goods.
Essential Tracks: “Break Into Your Heart”, “Paraguay”, “Sunday”