Oh God, I’m really worried Iggy Pop has cancer. This might sound like an irrational overreaction to the mere release of the wrinkly rock icon’s latest record, but, after a particularly casualty heavy first few months of 2016, I think my concern is justified. Pop has previously warned that this album will mark the end of his recording career, drawing to a close nearly 50 years of audacious unpredictability from the human knuckle. With any luck this means that he’s once again a step ahead of the rest of the universe (a position he’s never left since cutting The Stooges a full seven years before The Ramones predicted punk) and is calling it a day in time for a nice, long retirement. But with the final strains of ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’ still rattling around my skull, it’s hard to ignore the ‘Blackstar’-shaped shadow that falls across David Bowie’s old sparring partner’s fellow swansong.
I don’t mean this in the sense that ‘Post Pop Depression’ rips off ‘Blackstar’ in any way. Over their overlapping careers Iggy and Ziggy might constantly have borrowed tips and tricks off one another in order to incite inspiration in both themselves and one another, but the recording of this album would have long been wrapped up before Bowie unveiled his final record to the world (so you can file the strange tonal similarities between the otherwise very different ‘Blackstar’ and ‘American Valhalla’ under the notice marked ‘spooky’ rather than the one marked ‘derivative’). Nevertheless, Pop’s own awareness of his impending mortality informs the subject matter of this record to an even greater extent than it did Bowie’s.
The lyrics here are some of the finest Iggy has ever written, perfectly balancing out a more morbid line of thought than he’s followed before with an undiminished lust for late life. From the ominous talk of pursuing his own shadow on the tightly coiled ‘In The Lobby’ to the blunt allegorical imagery on sole album clunker ‘Vulture’, there’s a tangible sense of dusk preceding a long night that lies as heavily across this album. Sometimes the mood is stoic and playful, but there’s a simmering undercurrent of fury present here that reveal a singer not quite as ready as his old flatmate to go gently into that good night. This is distilled and served up neat on closer ‘Paraguy’, the angriest thing Pop’s released since he invented The Hives on ‘I’m Sick Of You’ in 1977. You can nearly hear the venom flying out of the speakers as the first and last of the true rock stars surveys the planet and realises he’s left it more rotten than he found it. “There’s so much fucking…knowledge!” cries the self-proclaimed Idiot midway through a breathtaking death-rattle of a rant that sounds about a million miles away from the English evergreens of Bowie’s farewell.
But what truly separates ‘Post Pop Depression’ from other records of its ilk is that it’s far more than a farewell album from the man who’s name adorns the cover; it’s also Queens of the Stone Age frontman and co-creator Josh Homme’s spiritual successor to ‘…Like Clockwork’. If Pop’s grapple with his own encroaching mortality lifts the record of the ground, it’s Homme’s musical compass and seemingly infinite capacity for a killer riff that fuels its engines. The man who once said he wanted to make music “heavy enough for the boys and sweet enough for the girls” has rarely lived up to his own manifesto quite so perfectly. The needling riff that underlines the rock and rollicking groove of ‘Sunday’ is liable to enflame the listener’s cranium more viciously than a clutch of spider eggs, while the sun-kissed groove of ‘Gardenia’ highlights just far the desert rock god has branched out since he last recorded a single of the same name with Kyuss. Also along for the ride are Dean Fertita, whose distorted basslines provide some of the album’s most gripping moments, and Artic Monkeys’ sticksman Matt Helders, who aptly proves that he can hack it with the big boys.
But this is no supergroup. Iggy Pop is what it says on the tin and Iggy Pop is what every aspect the music revolves around. Apparently the title of ‘Post Pop Depression’ came from the blue mood the rest of the band sunk into when the singer departed the studio. When his indomitable spirit does finally depart his much-maligned body, this same feeling will ripple through the music community to an extent few artists could match. As 2016 keeps showing us: it’s the last encore before leaving the stage that sticks in your mind longest. Pop? Well he goes out with a bang.
Words: Josh Gray
- - -
- - -