“Wild animals they do
Never wonder why
Just do what they goddamn do”
In some respects that’s The Stooges. They never attached themselves to the goings on of the time, did they? Which I guess is what makes them timeless. Or at least it’s one of the reasons. Iggy Pop could be considered, by some, to be one of the wildpeople. Clearly a smart and articulate chap, he has, for years, projected this image of him being wild-eyed. Appearing topless pretty much all of the time and even, occasionally, writhing around on live TV with some crazy see-through plastic trousers. Commando. Was he reckless? Or just carefree? Positively bonkers, though.
I can’t really remember the first time I heard Iggy Pop or The Stooges. I remember the first time he really appeared on my radar, though. The Crow: City of Angels and the live version of I Wanna Be Your Dog that appeared on the soundtrack. Yeah, not quite the plastic trouser caper, but it was substantial enough for a 17 year old who was into Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Radiohead to take notice. I listened to that soundtrack a fair bit and may even have had a wee look around the internet for Iggy Poppery.
The game changer, though, was Trainspotting. The door was opened. Iggy Pop had just stepped through in time for tea.
The opening scene. Lust For Life playing while Renton makes a dash through the backstreets of Edinburgh in an attempt to make a getaway after a spot of shoplifting. Both the scene and track inhabit each other… the spirit of Iggy Pop. A good natured rogue. Laughing in the face of shop security. Or maybe it’s all just about being a right wild-eyed crazy bastard, right enough.
A year or so later, his turn on Aisha from Death In Vegas’ Contino Sessions convinced me Iggy was a genius. I duly delved in to his music and that of The Stooges. What struck me about Iggy is that his music was fierce. Even when it appears he’s captured in a moment of reflection or the stylistic detours.
Experiencing Iggy live was really special, though. If I wasn’t already sure, it convinced me Iggy Pop was, and is, something else. A force of nature. Even looking at live footage now. At the ripe old age of 102, Iggy Pop has the youthful energy of, say, someone who is, eh, dripping with youthful energy. The man is an icon. A musical action man. A legend in a world where few legends are left… and there he is waving his “go fuck yourself” flag.
*for complete transparency and the likes, I should disclose now that I quite like Iggy Pop and his co-conspirator here, Josh Homme
It would be easy to throw about statements that suggest that Post Pop Depression is a career highlight. And it is easy, cause Post Pop Depression is really that good. So good, in fact, that it’s, well, a career highlight. Trust me, this is amazing stuff. It’s inspired, chock-full hooky kooky hooks and Iggy is witty, fun, strutting and spewing vitriol.
Conceived as something of a goodbye letter, Iggy Pop hunkered down at the Rancho de la Luna with Josh Homme with a bunch of ideas that they’d been corresponding over for a while. The correspondence revolved around chats about things like mountains and working with David Bowie. A complete collaboration, each had ideas, but the aim was not to bring in complete songs. Homme invited Queens of the Stone Age colleague, Dean Fratita, and Arctic Monkey, Matt Helders, and they got to making an album that sounds like a Desert Session disco.
Now, I know what you’re thinking… “Iggy Pop and that guy from Queens of the Stone Age? Making albums together!? Whatever next, Margaret!?” … and I can understand the misgivings, but this is not the postured ‘trying-too-hard’ shenanigans of The Weirdness here; this is fierce. And Homme is a great co-conspirator. He really is. His attention to detail really ensures that he and Pop create a piece of uncluttered majestic angled rockery that has plenty in common with Pop’s 1977 albums without trying to replicate them. Even if I wasn’t a fan of Iggy and that Homme guy, I’d take my hat off to them and say “jolly good work, gentlemen”.
Y’see, there’s a swagger and groove that is infectious from the first few seconds. Pretty much as soon as Fertita and Helders burst through the paper ‘welcome to Post Pop Depression’ banner on Break Into Your Heart. The creative spirit, sinister grooves, winding guitar, and post popaclypse philosophising never fades. Iggy (almost) never sounds wild-eyed, but rather like a ragged topless disenchanted Sinatra while Homme & Co. sound like a bunch of scruffy nerf herders all dressed up and playing some bright disco.
So, without further jibber jabber, let me tell you what I love about Iggy Pop’s Post Pop Depression.
Man, this kicks in and it throbs and pulsates like a bright migraine glow. The hand claps… the sharp guitar chops and the bouncing bass… like a boat on choppy waters. This is ragged disco, man… this is what The Killers would sound like if they had a mean bone. This is dark. The story of a prostitute with a dangerous habit. What is her dangerous habit? Was that the catch? That’s why she’s there laying in the darkness with Iggy?
Now, Gardenia happens to be the first Post Pop Depression track that left a mark on me… his performance on that yon American chat show is truly majestic… his vocals are incredible… he’s definitely a ragged Sinatra… and here, on record, the raw awesomeness of Pop, his words, and performance are intact. Homme has captured that thing about Pop… and that’s truly special. Listen to him wonder what happened to Gardenia… and the delivery on the final verse.
Alone in the cheapo motel
By the highway to hell
America’s greatest living poet
was ogling you all night
You should be wearing the finest gown
But here you are now
Gas, food, lodging, poverty, misery
You could be burned at the stake
For all your mistakes, mistakes, mistakes
The distorted bass kicks dust and the guitar chimes. Looking around an arid wasteland for signs of something. A sign that says this way. Who is James Osterberg? What will become of him when Iggy Pop is gone? “I’m not the man with everything. I’ve nothing but my name”. Will it be like Clark Kent? A pair of glasses and a suit and suddenly he just blends into the crowd?
There’s definite air of Queens of the Stone Age about it (d’uh). Especially the “I don’t know” refrain (echoes of I’m Designer). Loads of great lyrics in this one that speak of identity and mortality even if James Osterberg isn’t particularly feeling weary… Iggy is… “Death is the pill that’s hard to swallow. Is there anybody in there and can I bring a friend?” is a great line.
In The Lobby
That Queens of the Stone Age vibe continues on the wicked corkscrew shenanigans of The Lobby. There’s something quite ferocious about this one. The playing… the zinging guitar, the stomp and Iggy delivering angry lines like “And it’s all about the kicks. And it’s all about the dancing pricks. And it’s all about the clowns. And it’s all about the guns”.
Modern life is rubbish, it seems… and I love the yelp at the end of “I hope I’m not losing my life tonight”.
Without a doubt my favourite here… it really is quite something. The groove is insatiable, my friends. Iggy’s vocal is brilliant (again) as he sneers and spits out lines about politicians and corporate pricks like that disenchanted Sinatra (yeah, I know, I tend to compare to Sinatra a bit, but I like him and, well, he’s the benchmark for vocal delivery). Again, it’s about shedding his identity… getting to rest… reaching Sunday.
Honestly, there’s so much about this song to love… the rhythm section really are incredible… Fertitia’s bass really keeps you grooving… Helders playing is exceptional… the shrug in Iggy’s voice when he says “I’m a wreck… what’d you expect?”… and the slicing of the guitar. It’s all great… and then there’s the big orchestral section, which is just lovely.
The bare bones of this one are adorned by some of Homme’s trademark screeching and some rattling snare. Absolutely brilliant… it’s like a Morricone piece, I guess… and like Morricone’s work, the atmosphere shakes you. Again, Iggy’s vocal is vibrant and raggedly ferocious.
In fact, it’s hard to fault anything here and while I’ve tried to avoid a blow-by-blow, I can’t not mention opener Break Into Your Heart with its sinister synth punching and that piercing guitar line? It’s a bit creepy and there’s even some lines straight out of Billy Gibbon’s Guide To Double Entendres™ (“your heart is buried underneath mountains capped with snow”).
Elsewhere, German Days eases off on the swagger and Chocolate Drops has a bit of a sway to it. And what is Iggy talking about? “When you get to the bottom, you’re near the top. The shit turns into chocolate drops”. Huh?
Like I say, the arrangements aren’t cluttered. They lock onto a groove and let Iggy do his thing. They don’t try too hard to replicate anything Iggy’s done before, but they provide a backdrop for an old wanderer who is maybe a tad cynical and a bit weary.
We know now that Post Pop Depression wasn’t to be Iggy’s last album, but the closing track, Paraguay sounded like a fitting goodbye. A 7 minute ‘electric, volatile and free’ groove where Iggy croons about getting out of Dodge before the song breaks down and Iggy rants like a more balanced John McAfee while Homme & Co. chant that wild animals “just do what they goddamn do”.
“… You take mother-fucking laptop
Just shove it into your goddamn foul mouth
Down your shit-eating gizzard
You fuckin’ 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
Cause I’m sick and it’s your fault
And I’m gonna go heal myself now”
And just like that, he was gone.
As you’ve probably guessed, I love this album… unreservedly so. I honestly reckon the album is more consistent than you would, or could, hope for from an album this deep into a career (that contained just a handful of genuinely consistent albums). There’s no doubt that Homme created an environment that inspired Iggy’s creativity and his performances aren’t all bravado, but of a guy who has experienced it all and just wants to put his feet up. I’d say there’s a good chance that both weren’t daunted by the prospect of working with the other, which meant that there was respect, but not too much respect that they were afraid kick uninspired ideas into touch.
… and, y’know, the sessions appear to have heavily influenced Queens of the Stone Age’s Villains, too. So that’s no bad thing.
Most importantly, it joins his awesome radio show in making up for those fucking Swift insurance ads.
*I’ve owned two copies of this, the standard release and the deluxe (according to Discogs, it’s limited to 2000 copies). The standard edition was, naturally, a fair bit cheaper and therefore the safe “I’ve never bought an Iggy Pop album on vinyl” purchase. I regretted not opting for the deluxe version quite quickly and eventually ‘upgraded’ last year when I saw a cheap sealed copy.
Unlike the standard edition, this one comes with a nice full size booklet with images and credits and notes, etc. and a thick gatefold sleeve. The LP sounds great. Really great.