Words by Ben Bowman.
2016 has been a year of brilliant records, from glistening debuts to triumphant returns and everything in-between. In March of this year, Iggy Pop released his first album for four years, making it his seventeenth studio album as a solo artist. For someone of such prestige, Iggy’s recent work prior to this release has somewhat slipped into the wilderness, leading many people to view him as increasingly irrelevant, but a brief return with The Stooges propelled him back into the limelight. Iggy even said that he may be retiring from the music industry sooner rather than later but at least he has gifted us what many people are calling the album of the year, ‘Post Pop Depression’ before he hangs up his hat.
The record was made in rather a large cloud of secrecy and began recording a year prior to the release in March 2016. Iggy called in a favour from fellow Rock royalty Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age as they conversed lyrics through mail and Homme agreed to produce the album. If there was ever a pair of musicians that were tailor made to work on an album together, it would be these two. Iggy himself described the album as discussing issues of what happens when your utility is coming to an end and the issue of dealing with your legacy, which is all in all rather foreshadowing, while Homme said that preparing for this album gave him some form of coping mechanism in the wake of the Paris Attacks in November 2015. More rock royalty followed into the proceedings in the form of Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders and Homme’s fellow Queens of the Stone Age member Dean Fertita.
The album, ‘Post Pop Depression’ is formulated of nine songs, relatively short in length but they certainly pack a punch. If this is Iggy’s final curtain moment, he certainly knows how to bow out in style. The opener ‘Break into Your Heart’ is a gripping reminder of Iggy’s powerful stirring vocals and Homme’s incredible capability with the guitar as he lays down a thunderous riff on this track. Throughout this album, it feels as if you are listening through a cloud of cigarette smoke while sitting at a bar given the atmospheric nature of Iggy’s vocals. There are some more lighter moments on the album, such as ‘Gardenia’, a catchy number once again driven by Homme, with Iggy rather than being intrusive, he looks outward – ‘Gardenia, where are you?’ is the cry. Both of these tracks encapsulate the confident groove in which Helders has time and time again demonstrated with The Arctic Monkeys, (especially on the 2013 release AM).
It is clear that we see Iggy in a fragile, insecure nature on this record. Before, it never seemed as if he was concerned at all with death, but you get the sense he feels as if his reign may be nearing ever closer to the end, which is evident on ‘American Valhalla’. “Death is the pill that’s hard to swallow,” “Is anybody in there? / And can I bring a friend? / I’m not the man with everything”. A rather sombre mood is created and you begin to sympathise with the great man as it seems as if he never wants to grow old, but retains a youthful rage in ‘In the Lobby’ by crooning ‘And it’s all about the sex’.
‘Sunday’ is without doubt the most uplifting sounding track on the album, and is my favourite. Helders keeps the drumming tight and rhythmic while Homme compliments it with some funk-rock fusion sounding guitar. Once again, it represents Iggy longing for the end of something, ‘The key to everything, I crawl for Sunday’ but the song does never seem to end. I could listen to it all day and acts as a perfect centerpiece for the album and it has become one of my favourite ever songs. The production of this track is brilliant from start to finish as Homme and Helders provide backing notes alongside some female backing singers which offer a soulful tone and the orchestral fade out at the end provides a mesmeric conclusion.
Here is Iggy performing ‘Sunday’ with the rest of the ‘Post Pop Depression’ contingent on Jools Holland earlier this year.
‘Vulture’ is the most stripped back effort from Iggy but we are brought straight back into the more heavy side of things with the next track ‘German Days’ , one of the most heavy on the album, with Homme’s QOTSA influence constantly seeping through, especially from their most recent album ‘…Like Clockwork’.
‘Paraguay’ is the perfect ending to the album, as this is seen to be the moment in which Iggy finally hands in his resignation. “See, I just couldn’t take no more,” he sings, “I just thought, well, fuck it man / I’m gonna pack my soul and scram”. Josh delivers a beautiful solo to compliment Iggy’s self-examination which is felt throughout the whole record.
This is without doubt one of the albums of the year. A real insight into the delicate soul of Iggy Pop, with this record he has really proved himself as one of the best. Rock royalty, personified.
Witten by Ben Bowman, you can follow Ben on twitter here.