Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression

So by the time you read this review you will probably have already been avalanched by critical fawning over Post Pop Depression, purportedly the final statement of Iggy Pop’s almost 50-year career. The narrative arc accompanying the album is certainly appealing: A maverick rocker emerges from the underground in the late ’60s, almost singlehandedly creates a genre (punk), toils for decades in drug-hazed semi-obscurity, overcomes his demons, eventually becomes a prosperous and universally respected icon – and then, finally, delivers one of the best albums of his career as a capstone before retiring at the top of his game. In America, everyone loves a winner, right?

But real life is never quite so simple, is it?

OK, let’s go ahead and get this out on the table: I absolutely adore Iggy Pop. With The Stooges he made three godhead albums (especially Fun House). His solo collaborations with Bowie, The Idiot and Lust for Life, are undeniably masterpieces as well. Then there’s the matter of New Values, Iggy’s criminally underrated 1979 opus. All the aforementioned albums have sat atop my giant heap of favorite records for decades.

And then there’s the matter of the man himself. No one has ever more capably embodied rock ’n’ roll. The man just oozes hypersexuality, confidence, surliness and a certain self-depreciating humor. Iggy is the stuff of legend, a real piece of work, a god. And now, with The Ramones, Lou, Bowie and Strummer all dead as hell, Iggy is just about the last man standing of the protopunks – who are truly The Greatest Generation. In a perfect world, a giant, golden statue of Iggy would tower over every city for the children to admire. In a perfect world, Iggy’s beautiful face would be emblazoned on every American dollar bill.

But this is not a perfect world. And that’s OK. And, alas, Post Pop Depression does not rank among Iggy’s best records. And that’s OK.

Granted, Post Pop Depression is pretty fucking good. Collaborator Josh Homme has deftly pulled Iggy out of his funk in a way that the post-millennial incarnation of The Stooges never could. (Granted, the 2000s era Stooges really could tear it up live.) I can’t really put a finger on exactly why Homme’s musical underpinnings work so well with Iggy while umpteen other gifted collaborators (pretty much everyone since Soldier’s Ivan Kral) floundered. But Homme possesses some kind of magic touch.

With Post Pop Depression, Homme and Pop sought to recreate the Weimar Republic sturm und drang of Pop’s 1970s Bowie collaborations. And Post Pop Depression is indeed a pretty good replication – pretty good, but not great. But then again, pretty good is as good as one can reasonably expect at this point. The album may not be on par with The Idiot or Lust for Life, but it’s a fuckton better than Skull Ring, Naughty Little Doggie, American Caesar, Beat ‘Em Up, etc., etc.

Seven of the album’s nine tracks are actually pretty doggone good. Homme (aided and abetted by The Dead Weather/QOTSA’s Dean Fertita on bass and the Arctic Monkeys’ Matt Helders on drums) delivers a sinewy, tightly wound musical counterpoint for Pop’s deep baritone warbling that just, well, it works.

Although I’ll be devastated to see Iggy end his career, I think he’d probably be well served to make good on the lyrical promises of Post Pop Depression. With the exception of “Gardenia” (arguably the album’s catchiest track), all of the songs ponder mortality, lament, the meaning of life, finding one’s legacy and the like – which is pretty much what you’d expect from a pushing-70 rocker on the cusp of retirement. And thankfully, with the exception of the far-too-obvious “Vulture,” Pop doesn’t embarrass himself with the kind of downright dumb-and-inevitable “chances/dances” couplets that have burdened his lyrics for the last 35 years. This is to say that Iggy has (finally) put some real effort into his lyrics again.

So what we have here is a somewhat subdued (we’re talking about the Iggy Pop of Raw Power fame here, fer chrissakes) selection of sturdy, memorable enough pop/rock songs by an iconic performer. This is certainly good enough. Post Pop Depression is an imminently likable album that I’ll probably find entertaining for three or four weeks before I file it somewhere between Party and Zombie Birdhouse. I’ll probably pull the album out of the pile every couple-three years, too. Again, this is good enough. As Iggy himself notes, “And it’s all about the edge/ And it’s all about the dancing kids/ And it’s all about the sex/ And it’s all about done.” And that’s OK.

Iggy Pop
Post Pop Depression
[Loma Vista]