“I have nothing but my name.” Iggy Pop nonchalantly croons in “American Valhalla”doing his best David Bowie impersonation.
That particular line instantly gave me chills as if someone stepped over my grave. At first I couldn’t put my finger on why it was so haunting. Maybe it was his Bowie-esque delivery? The music fades out and he repeats the line sand music but now in a painful, whisky stained dialect making it clear that it wasn’t just cool throw away line to end the song but a statement of vulnerability we rarely get to see from The Godfather of Punk.
With the recent deaths of David Bowie and Lemmy Kilmister, I can’t help but to linger on the grim reality of losing another legend. Not putting Iggy in the grave just yet mind you, but being well past one’s prime and running on empty seems to be the unofficial theme behind Post Pop Depression, the new collaborative album from Iggy and Queens Of The Stone Age frontman, Josh Homme.
Despite being deemed a collaborative album, it’s still essentially an Iggy Pop record produced by Homme, backed by a supergroup of sorts. Arctic Monkey’s drummer Matt Helders, The Dead Weather/Queens Of The Stone Age guitarist Dean Ferita, on bass, guitar, and keys, and of course Homme himself, coming together as backing band, feels like a legitimate band effort, something Iggy has struggled with for the better part of his career, especially with the disastrous Stooges reunions.
Post Pop Depression begins abruptly with “Break Into Your Heart” with it’s trashy lyrics of breaking and entering while crawling under your skin in true Iggy fashion, but thanks to this supergroup’s distorted, riff heavy groove, the vibe is distinctively sleazier and far more dire. The trend continues with the lead single “Gardenia” which features superb harmonizing vocals by Homme in the chorus that makes me wonder why I initially questioned this collaboration in the first place. Now I only wish it happened sooner.
The whole project came together rather quickly when Iggy allegedly dropped Homme a text message stating they should work on something together. After the terrorist attacks in Paris at a Eagle’s Of Death Metal concert this last November, Hommes jumped on the opportunity, hoping the project would help keep his sanity from under the stress and grief. The duo wrote, rehearsed, and recorded Post Pop Depression in under three weeks, funding it themselves completely, to ensure artistic integrity.
One-off supergroups and quirky projects are a dime a dozen these days, (most involve Jack White in some captivity) but dissolve just as quick as they are assembled, leaving behind tiny collections of under-developed, slightly-better-than-demo, songs forgotten as soon the gimmick wears off. What makes Post Pop Depression different is how it’s treated as an Iggy album and not just a one off project fueled by superficial synergy and social media hype. Every instrument compliments the vocals, and each vocal nuance compliments the lyrics, just like artists who have been working with each other for years.
Lyrically, Iggy spins tales of drinking, fornicating, and having his finger tightly on the pulse of what the rock n roll lifestyle means to one’s mind, body, and soul. It’s not at all pretty and the pictures he paints should be, by all means, horrifying, but there’s an indescribable, albeit strange beauty to it like a drunk homeless man giving you a bouquet of flowers and wanting nothing in return but a simple thank you. There is even a gorgeous string arrangement that closes out the song “Sunday” that I thought I’d never hear on a rock record, much less one with Iggy Pop and members of Qeens Of The Stone Age and The Dead Weather!
Up until recently, I’ve only been a casual fan of Queens Of The Stone Age. I bought Songs For The Deaf back in 2003 when “No One Knows” was all over radio, but really didn’t get into them much. As nitpicky as it sounds, the production on that record was a big turnoff. Even though Eric Valentine is credited as the producer, the band adapted that certain sound of fuzzy compression coupled with a thin layer of digital distortion over vocals, drums, and all. Of course it was the sound they were going for, but it just bugged me for some reason. Homme utilizes the same approach on Post Pop Depression and ironically, it’s one of my favorite aspects of the record! Iggy’s road weary vocals have a natural static that fits well with the raw production. It just makes sense on a sonic level. In fact, it gave me a new respect for Queens Of The Stone age! I went back to listen to their entire catalog and I enjoyed it immensely!
My only criticism is the lack of uptempo songs. “Gardenia” makes sense as the lead single because it’s the most mainstream accessible of the bunch, but even that one is just above medium tempo. Homme is a master of droning grooves and every single one of them on Post Pop Depression works perfectly. However, if not for repeated listens, it’s hard to recall which song is which. I don’t think anyone is expecting a modern “Search and Destroy” (inside or outside of the band) but with all of the individuals involved and no outside influence from labels or executives, it would have been nice to hear at least one scorching punk flavored song. As it stands, Post Pop Depression is a very bleak album. Not boring by any means, but a clear medium tempo agenda from start to finish.
Iggy has hinted Post Pop Depression just may be his last album/tour due to his lack of energy (he’s 70 years old for God’s sake!) and while it pains me to hear such a larger than life individual calling it quits, he owes us nothing. Even with it’s lack of angst and theatrics, Post Pop Depression is a solid album that stands shoulder to shoulder with some of Iggy’s best work. If Post Pop Depression is the farewell record from Iggy Pop, his rant that closes out “Paraguay” is a satisfying bookend to his fifty year career as one of the most interesting characters in rock n’ roll history.
Aaron (or Coop) is a freelance writer, multi-instrumentalist and overall lover of all things music. As an advocate for indie record labels and artists, he is passionate about local scenes and do-it-yourself artistry. If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s bad, he’s not afraid to explain why.