Today, Iggy Pop releases Post Pop Depression: the latest product of a solo career that has spanned four decades, 17 albums, and almost as many stalls and about-faces. You probably wouldn’t know it from looking at us–for one thing, we tend to keep our shirts on in public–but Iggy is a personal hero for both of us at Dystopian Dance Party. A thinking man’s punk and a stalwart icon of full-throttle rock’n’roll rebellion, he’s the writhing, sinewy spirit animal that pulses beneath our seemingly mild-mannered exteriors. I don’t think I would be writing about music if it weren’t for Iggy and the Stooges–hell, I don’t even think I would have survived high school. And, while my musical horizons have broadened since the first time “Down on the Street” shredded my speakers, I still can’t imagine a universe without their brand of pummeling Motor City rock: still the number one reason why I’m proud to have been born in Southeast Michigan.
But as important as Iggy is to us, we’ll be the first to admit that his solo catalogue can be daunting to newcomers. Anyone with 17 albums spread over 40 years is sure to have thrown a few curveballs in the mix, and Iggy packs more curveballs than most: he may have made history as one of the progenitors of punk, but his oeuvre includes everything from studio-polished arena pop to roots rock to spoken-word and even (gasp!) jazz. Like some of our earlier selections for this series (ahem, Lou Reed), Iggy Pop is the definition of an inconsistent artist. But the inconsistent artists tend to be the most fascinating ones, and in that area Pop is certainly no exception. So, before you check out his new record (spoiler alert: it’s really, really good), why not get yourself up to speed on his work to date?
Just like with Lou Reed, your first step in exploring Iggy Pop’s discography should be to buy, borrow, or steal every album officially released by his first band, the Stooges. That means their 1969 self-titled debut, 1970’s Fun House (hell, get two copies of Fun House), and 1973’s Raw Power (get two copies of that one, too–one for the muddier mix by original producer David Bowie, the other for the face-melting 1997 remix by Iggy himself). Then, if you’re a real devotee, pick up the infamous 1976 “official bootleg” Metallic K.O.: a rough but riveting document of the Stooges’ final live performance at Detroit’s Michigan Palace on February 9, 1974, which almost ended in a riot; per Lester Bangs, it’s “the only rock album I know where you can actually hear hurled beer bottles breaking against guitar strings.”
Your next step is another “semi-official” release. Kill City, released by Bomp! Records in November 1977, was actually recorded two years earlier with ex-Stooges guitarist James Williamson, while Iggy was on weekend leave from UCLA’s neuropsychiatric institute. For a glorified collection of demos, the album is an underrated gem: it sounds like nothing else in Pop’s solo catalogue, like a mellower extension of the Stooges’ post-Raw Power demos, or a gutter version of the Exile-era Rolling Stones. The best songs are arguably the quiet ones; “Sell Your Love” in particular is as gorgeous a song as Iggy ever wrote: a gospel-tinged, saxophone-laden ballad addressed to a prostitute, sung from the perspective of a man who knew a thing or two about life at rock bottom. “Johanna” rocks harder–it’s more than a little reminiscent of “Gimme Danger” from Raw Power–but still piles on the saxophone skronk, with John “The Rookie” Harden’s performance channeling the Stooges’ own Steve Mackay. Finally, “No Sense of Crime” even dips its toes into country music (!), with a slide guitar part by Williamson that imitates the sound of a pedal steel and another strong melody from Iggy–the reason, most likely, for the song’s otherwise-inexplicable (but welcome!) 2006 cover by neo-soul singer-songwriter Van Hunt.
When Iggy made his solo debut proper in 1977, it was with the help of another old friend. The Stooges, along with Lou Reed, had been one of the principal beneficiaries of David Bowie’s ride to early-’70s stardom; the rechristened “Ziggy“ (hmm, wonder where he got that name) effectively saved his heroes from drug-fueled oblivion, signing them to his manager Tony Defries’ company MainMan and flying them out to London to record their ill-fated “comeback” album Raw Power. When, after the final demise of the Stooges, Iggy checked himself into the aforementioned psychiatric hospital to kick his heroin addiction, Bowie–himself in the grips of an intense cocaine dependency–was one of his few regular visitors. Pop then tagged along on Bowie’s 1976 Station to Station tour, and joined him at the Château d’Hérouville for the recording of 1977’s Low (Iggy’s vocals are clearly audible on the track “What in the World“). During the same sessions, the pair also began work on what would become Pop’s The Idiot; they completed the album at West Berlin’s Hansa Studio 1, technically making it the first chapter of Bowie’s much-vaunted “Berlin Trilogy.”
Indeed, history has not always been kind to The Idiot, which has earned a reputation in some circles as an Iggy Pop album in name alone; Bowie himself later claimed (more than a little self-servingly) to have used Iggy’s album as “a guinea pig for what I wanted to do with sound.” This critique, however, only plays into the widely-held (and wildly inaccurate) assumption that Iggy wasn’t smart or aesthetically bold enough to grasp anything beyond the Stooges’ brilliantly boneheaded heavy rock. In fact, he was a driving force in The Idiot‘s dystopian-future sound: it was his idea–against Bowie’s protests–to eschew live drums for the eerie “Nightclubbing,” powering the song’s vampiric portrait of hedonism with little more than an insistent drum machine pulse and Bowie’s cabaret-style piano. Pop also solely wrote the music and played the piano part for “Dum Dum Boys,” his poignant (if somewhat condescending) lament for the erstwhile members of the Stooges. And, while I can’t entirely speak to who did what on every song, it’s a fact that nothing as crushingly nihilistic as closing track “Mass Production” would have seen the light of day on a Bowie album: it’s the most sonically radical thing on any of the so-called “Berlin” records, pointing the way past New Wave to the nascent industrial music of bands like Throbbing Gristle.
For whatever reason, though, Pop ended up feeling a little self-conscious about The Idiot; I remember reading an interview with him in the early 2000s (which I sadly can’t find anywhere online), recounting a sheepish 1977 encounter with a group of German punks who accused him of abandoning the Stooges’ hard-hitting sound for “cabaret music.” His next Bowie-produced album, Lust for Life, thus comes across as something of a corrective measure: it’s more of a “rock” record than The Idiot, certainly, though for my money it comes up short in genuine punk aggression (“Mass Production,” again, is more punk rock than actual punk rock). Still, it doesn’t lack for classic songs–the title track and “The Passenger,” of course, but also “Tonight”: a shimmering New Wave ballad addressed to a girlfriend dying of a heroin overdose, which in 1984 became the second Iggy song (after “China Girl“) to be murdered by his on-and-off benefactor.
Another highlight is “Success,” a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the trappings of music-business achievement–a new car, a “Chinese rug”–from an artist who had already faced enough career disappointments to be deeply cynical about his commercial prospects. It is, if nothing else, a strong argument for Lust for Life‘s status as the most likable Iggy Pop album. Then, on the other side of the spectrum, there’s “Turn Blue”: a stream-of-consciousness, gospel-flavored confessional, apparently dating back to an abandoned early 1975 session with Bowie, that comes the closest of anything on the record to capturing Iggy’s anarchic stage presence–even if, musically, it still sounds a little mannered.
After recording Lust for Life, Pop and Bowie hit the road with the rhythm section they’d used on the album–Tony and Hunt Sales, the sons of 1950s and ’60s TV comedian Soupy and later members of Bowie’s Tin Machine–plus guitarist Ricky Gardiner, who’d largely composed the music for “The Passenger.” The tour is documented by numerous bootlegs, as well as the official album TV Eye Live 1977: a rush release, mixed for just $5,000 to fulfill Iggy’s contract with RCA. It’s as good an album as can be expected given its contractual-obligation origins, offering the unique opportunity to hear David Bowie’s keyboards and backing vocals on a smattering of Stooges covers, plus charmingly roughshod takes on tracks like “Funtime.”
Iggy parted ways with Bowie after his departure from RCA, and linked up once again with James Williamson for his next album, 1979’s New Values. The album also features former auxiliary Stooges member Scott Thurston on guitar, bass, keyboards, and harp (!), but it definitely doesn’t sound like a Stooges record; instead, New Values finds Iggy doing his best imitation of Joe Jackson, with loads of wiry New Wave hooks and clean, economical production. That’s a compliment, by the way: opening track “Tell Me a Story” should have been as big a New Wave anthem as Elvis Costello‘s “Less Than Zero,” and “Five Foot One” is another sterling example of Iggy’s wry humor, with lyrics expressing his bewilderment at a world he has to crane his neck to properly see (for the record, he’s taking some poetic license–Iggy actually stands five feet, seven inches).
1980’s Soldier is a significantly more muddled effort–probably because its actual recording, at Rockfield Studios in Wales, was by all accounts a miserable mess. Williamson initially returned as producer, but he seemed to have taken a page from the Phil Spector playbook this time around, lording over the drunken, paranoid sessions with a gun. When Bowie showed up to lend his informal assistance, he and Williamson inevitably clashed, leading to Williamson’s departure from the project. Relations were also strained between Bowie and the musicians on the session: an impressive assortment of punk and New Wave names, including original Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock, ex-Patti Smith Group guitarist Ivan Král, former Rich Kids guitarist Steve New, XTC keyboardist Barry Andrews, and the Scottish post-punk group Simple Minds. At one point, New “fucking jumped on” Bowie after he flirted with his then-girlfriend, Patti Palladin of the female punk duo Snatch; by way of retaliation, either Bowie or Pop allegedly stripped New’s parts out of the final mix, resulting in the album’s unusual paucity of lead guitar.
Behind-the-scenes drama aside, however, Soldier isn’t entirely without redeeming qualities. The best song by some margin is “Play It Safe”: a throwback to The Idiot‘s synth-heavy drone–not coincidentally, it’s the song on the album with the most direct involvement from Bowie–that began life as a stream-of-consciousness rant about London gangster and socialite John Bindon, whose notoriously large penis Bowie had claimed was “a favorite of Princess Margaret’s.” While the potentially libelous bits about Bindon and Margaret were ultimately left off the final track, it retains a palpable sense of menace, with oblique references to the parallels between rock stardom and the criminal underworld: “I’m gonna be a criminal,” Iggy belts out with backing singers Bowie and Simple Minds, “Play it safe.” Nothing else on the album is anywhere near as good, but at least some of it is fun: “Dog Food,” for example, is a prime example of the self-aware dumb-punk schtick Iggy would spend the rest of the decade cranking out in his sleep.
Case in point: pretty much all of 1981’s Party. Like its predecessor, Party is a thoroughly mediocre album, but a lovable one nonetheless; Iggy had apparently promised Arista a “commercial” record, which in his universe meant a brass section, a pair of arbitrary oldies covers (Phil Phillips’ “Sea of Love” and the Outsiders‘ “Time Won’t Let Me“), and a single (“Bang Bang“) co-produced by former Monkees songwriter Tommy Boyce. Needless to say, the album was not a hit–but I have a soft spot for opener “Pleasure,” the most successful product of its “Iggy with horns!” conceit. And “Eggs on Plate” is a bona fide hidden gem: revisiting the wryly self-aware themes of “Success,” with an infectious, New York Dolls-esque arrangement courtesy of co-writer and guitarist Ivan Král.
After the dismal commercial performance of Party, Arista dropped Pop from the label, freeing him up to record 1982’s Zombie Birdhouse, easily his most experimental record since The Idiot. Produced by Blondie‘s Chris Stein (with bandmate Clem Burke on drums), Zombie Birdhouse is widely viewed as an ambitious failure; compared to the rest of Pop’s ’80s output, though, it’s a hell of a lot more interesting. In particular, dischordant opening track “Run Like a Villain” marks a welcome return to the industrial sound of “Mass Production,” and features some of Iggy’s most unhinged vocals since the Stooges era.
As one might expect, Zombie Birdhouse didn’t do much for Iggy’s commercial fortunes; he was also hitting another low point in his substance abuse around this time, ultimately checking into a Los Angeles detox clinic in 1983. This meant it was high time for Bowie to swoop in again to the rescue. He initially provided financial support via songwriting royalties: improbably turning “China Girl” from The Idiot into a Top 40 megahit, and following it up with no less than five Pop co-credits on 1984’s Tonight. Then, in 1986, the pair collaborated on their first full-length album in almost a decade. Normally, a reunion of the creative forces behind The Idiot and Lust for Life would be cause for celebration; but as our guide to Bowie already proved, the David Bowie of 1986 and the David Bowie of 1977 were decidedly different animals.
Blah Blah Blah isn’t a terrible album, per se, but it is an unrelentingly boring one; everything from the godawful tucked-in T-shirt and dad jeans ensemble Iggy wears on the cover to the embarrassingly on-the-nose song choices (a cover of Johnny O’Keefe’s “Wild One“; a song about sunglasses–because he’s a cool guy, I guess?) makes me cringe with second-hand embarrassment. Unsurprisingly, Iggy has disowned the record; also unsurprisingly–albeit depressingly–it was his biggest commercial success since Lust for Life. I find Blah Blah Blah‘s title track to be the most palatable song on the album, mainly because its busy arrangement is aping New Wave rather than bland yuppie pop/rock; for the most part, however, Iggy’s latest comeback album was as forgettable as it was slick.
Also forgettable, if slightly less slick, was his 1988 followup, Instinct. Like Lust for Life, Instinct feels like a corrective measure, an attempt to return Iggy from Bowie-inspired excess to his guitar-rock roots, but it’s a misfire on all fronts: Pop’s songwriting is uninspired even by his ’80s standards, Bill Laswell‘s production is the usual turgid schlock-rock, and ex-Sex Pistol Steve Jones‘ hard rock guitar style is apparently as boring and featureless as his punk guitar style was explosive and raw. Still, I put “High on You” on the playlist, if only to satiate any lingering curiosity about how Iggy Pop would sound singing a Billy Idol song.
Thus it was that in 1990, a mere four years after his last comeback, Iggy was already in need of another one. And this time it couldn’t come from the usual source: as we’ve seen elsewhere, Bowie was much too busy trying to reinvigorate his own career with Tin Machine to throw Iggy a bone. In the end, help came in the form of Don Was from Detroit art-punks Was (Not Was); the resulting album, Brick by Brick, was Pop’s most consistent in over a decade. Was encouraged Iggy to aim higher with his songwriting, resulting in the lyrical persona that still dominates his music to this day: the battle-hardened street philosopher, alternately baffled and disgusted by contemporary society. These days, of course, that persona isn’t terribly original; it’s basically the template for every aging counterculture icon of the last 25 years, from George Carlin to Keith Richards. But it worked for Iggy back then, lending a healthy gravitas to disaffected anthems like “Main Street Eyes.” And as always, you have to appreciate his sly sense of humor: like how he tweaked the title of Tom Petty’s recent heartland rock hit “I Won’t Back Down” for his own “I Won’t Crap Out.”
In the end, Brick by Brick‘s primary achievement was in revamping Iggy’s image for a new generation of alternative culture. In this respect, the music was arguably the least important part: the occasional guest appearance by Slash and Duff McKagan of Guns n’ Roses aside, it’s a surprisingly middle-of-the-road album, mostly featuring seasoned session musicians like Waddy Wachtel (a.k.a., the grey-haired, bespectacled hippie who’s played at every Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in history). Instead, Brick by Brick literally packaged Iggy in a layer of ’90s cool, with a sleeve by alternative “comix” artist Charles Burns (see above) and a world tour featuring prominent cameos by celebrity fans including Johnny Depp. Appropriately enough, it’s also around this time when Pop started making regular appearances in film and television roles, including John Waters‘ Cry-Baby (1990), Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man (1995), Rachel Talalay’s Tank Girl (1995), and even the cult Nickelodeon series The Adventures of Pete & Pete (1994-1996).
Pop’s next release was a cute cover of Cole Porter‘s “Well Did You Evah!” with another punk elder statesperson, Debbie Harry, for the HIV/AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Blue: a charming, if lightweight showcase for both his baritone croon and his patented Southeast Michigan drawl. But he really leaned in with the alterna-cool on his next record, 1993’s American Caesar; just look at that cover, where he looks for all the world like the drowned corpse of Anthony Kiedis (to be fair, though, Anthony Kiedis has spent pretty much his whole career trying to be the Splenda version of Iggy Pop). For the most part, Caesar was a successful effort: carrying on the jaundiced social commentary of Brick by Brick with a heavier sound and a more personal bent, particularly on the vulnerable breakup song “Fuckin’ Alone” and the stark addict’s confessional “Perforation Problems.” The main problem with the record is that it’s too goddamn long, cramming the full CD length with 17 tracks where ten could easily have sufficed; even before the superfluous “Louie Louie” cover and the seven-minute spoken-word goof “Caesar,” it’s already overstayed its welcome.
Still, Brick by Brick and American Caesar were both strong records overall; so, in typical Iggy fashion, his next release was a bit of a whiff. Co-produced by Iggy himself with veteran punk producer Thom Wilson, 1996’s Naughty Little Doggie is actually the best-sounding Iggy Pop album in years, with a pleasantly “live” feel; and, at just over 40 minutes, it’s also mercifully slimmer than either of its two immediate predecessors. The problem is that the actual songs aren’t up to snuff, with far too many bogged down by Iggy’s increasingly tiresome “dum dum boy” routine–or, in the case of the evocatively-titled “Pussy Walk,” offputting dirty old man skeeviness. He does get serious once, to considerable success, with closing track “Look Away”: a darkly ambivalent meditation on two doomed satellites from Iggy’s 1970s-era orbit, New York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders and notorious Los Angeles “baby groupie” Sable Starr. “So now I’m straight, I’m settled too,” he sings at the conclusion of the song, “I eat and I sleep and I work like you / I got lots of feelings, but I hold them down / That’s the way I cope with this shitty town.”
The ambivalent, melancholy mood persisted on 1999’s Avenue B, albeit with a radically different musical style, and Don Was back on board as producer. On paper, of course, a Pop/Was reunion would seem to make perfect commercial sense: after all, even nine years later, Brick by Brick was still Iggy’s best-selling album. The problem is that Avenue B sounds nothing like Brick by Brick–or anything even remotely resembling a normal person’s idea of an Iggy Pop album, for that matter. Instead, it’s a weird mélange of acoustic ballads, polite jazz-rock, and spoken-word poetry inspired by Pop’s recent divorce with Suchi Asano, his wife of 13 years. If that sounds terrible, well, that’s because it sort of is; about the most positive thing I can say for Avenue B is that it exists, and anything this bizarre that’s allowed to exist is worthy of our respect. For the curious, however, I recommend “I Felt the Luxury”: a relatively painless six and a half minutes of noir-ish narration with backing by jazz fusion trio Medeski Martin & Wood.
As had become his custom, Iggy followed his experimental detour with a no-bullshit rock album in 2001. Pop recorded Beat ‘Em Up with his touring band, the Trolls, comprised of guitarists Whitey Kirst and Pete Marshall (formerly of Samhain), drummer Alex Kirst (formerly of the Nymphs), and bassist Lloyd “Mooseman” Roberts (formerly of Body Count). I remember hating what I heard of the record at the time, and to be honest, it is far from Iggy’s best work: clocking in way too long again at 72 and a half minutes, with parts of the latter half of the album dipping into gross nu-metal territory. But its highlights are surprisingly high. Even if the social commentary of opening track “Mask” is, frankly, junior high-level (“You’re wearing a mask / You look better that way”), it’s always nice to hear Iggy rant like a madman about “chunky frat boys in their shorts”; and I still get a kick out of watching him scream the lyrics right in Middle America’s face, wearing gold lamé gloves and a head of broccoli around his neck, on the Late Show with David Letterman.
With the new millennium also came new opportunities for Iggy to introduce himself to another generation of acolytes. In 2000, he guested on two tracks, “Enfilade” and “Rolodex Propaganda,” by Texas post-hardcore band At the Drive-In. Then, in 2003, he recorded “Kick It,” the first of a handful of collaborations with Canadian electroclash provocateur Peaches. Peaches’ stripped-down, punk-influenced beats are a perfect match for Iggy, who sounds like he’s having a blast trading barbs with his duet partner (“I’m not sixteen but I’ve got leather boots and suede,” she crows; “Ahhh, go fuck the pain away,” he sneers in response).
There were plenty more duets, with Peaches and others, on Iggy’s own album from the same year–though none, it must be said, quite as infectious as “Kick It.” Actually, there’s more than a mild whiff of record company meddling about Skull Ring: half of the album is a straightforward Beat ‘Em Up sequel, while the other half is made up of the intergenerational duets so beloved of major labels ever since Santana and Rob Thomas sold a bajillion copies of Supernatural. These are, as you might imagine, mostly awful: especially the attempt at a big hit single, “Little Know It All” with mall punks Sum 41, which just might be the most embarrassing thing Iggy ever recorded–and you should know by now that that’s saying something. But four of the collabs actually succeeded in accomplishing something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime: reuniting Iggy with the original “Dum Dum Boys,” Ron and Scott Asheton of the Stooges.
Let’s be clear: even the worst song on the Stooges’ 1969 debut (“We Will Fall,” for the record) is better than anything recorded by the reunited lineup. But I can say from experience that, when I saw Iggy, Ron, Rock Action, and Mike Watt (standing in for original bassist Dave Alexander, who died in 1975) tear through Skull Ring‘s “Peter Gunn”-riffing title track at their August 2003 reunion show in Clarkston, Michigan, I was not splitting any such critical hairs. “Skull Ring” may not be a classic to the order of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” or “Loose,” but it sounds like the fucking Stooges, and that’s good enough for me.
I wish I could say the same for the reunited Stooges’ 2007 full-length, but The Weirdness was a massive disappointment.
Produced recorded by lo-fi anti-auteur Steve Albini, the album sounds downright generic: less like the Stooges and more like the work of an especially uninspired Stooges cover band. It is, if nothing else, a warning of the perils of 60-year-old men trying to write like they did when they were in their early 20s: in “1969,” Iggy sang brilliant-dumb lyrics about “Another year for me and you / Another year with nothing to do”; in 2007, all he could manage were dumb-dumb lyrics like “My idea of fun / Is killing everyone.” In short, the Stooges reunion was incredible and a thrill to behold–but the less said about the new music it produced, the better.
I also don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the renewed rigors of living up to his wildman youth left Iggy feeling more than a little drained. His next album, 2009’s Préliminaires, was an unlikely return to the jazz-inflected territory of Avenue B; around the time of its release, Iggy described it as his response to being “sick of listening to idiot thugs with guitars banging out crappy music.” Ron Asheton’s sudden death in January of that year also couldn’t have improved his mood. But the resulting record was better than a spiritual successor to Avenue B had any right to be. Iggy sounds remarkably natural crooning and swaggering to “King of the Dogs,” a New Orleans jazz pastiche heavily indebted to Louis and Lil Hardin Armstrong’s “King of the Zulus.” And the stark, Delta blues-influenced “He’s Dead, She’s Alive” has more balls to it than anything on Skull Ring or The Weirdness, with gutbucket acoustic guitar provided by Pop himself.
Préliminaires was bookended by renditions of “Les feuilles mortes,” the Joseph Kosma/Jacques Prévert standard better known in the U.S. as “Autumn Leaves.” His next album, Après, was intended to pick up where those tracks had left off, with a series of eclectic cover versions of songs by artists including Édith Piaf, Serge Gainsbourg, Frank Sinatra, and the Beatles. But Virgin, his label since 1990, rejected the recordings, with Iggy later explaining that they “would have preferred that I do a rock album with popular punks, sort of like ‘Hi Dad!’ I was not going to do that!” The album ended up sitting on the shelf for almost a year, before it finally slipped out as an online-only release in 2012. Which is a shame: Après isn’t an earth-shattering record, but it is a fine showcase for Iggy’s matured voice, and I’d much rather listen to his melancholy version of “I’m Going Away Smiling” by Yoko Ono than another fucking Sum 41 collaboration.
Meanwhile, the Stooges reunion carried on, even in the face of Ron’s death, with the return of James Williamson to lead guitar and co-writing duties. The re-reconfigured band was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010, and released another album of new material, Ready to Die, three years later. While far from essential, it’s a much better record than The Weirdness, and shares with both Raw Power and Kill City the Williamson/Pop duo’s willingness to explore different sonic textures than might be expected from the Stooges; “Unfriendly World” is a straight-up Americana ballad, and it’s surprisingly gorgeous. Rocker “Dirty Deal,” on the other hand, sounds more recognizably like the band that recorded “Search and Destroy,” but tempered by the intervening four decades of age and experience; it’s certainly a scathing indictment of the record industry, from a guy who has escalated such songs into a kind of mini-genre.
And now here we are, in 2016, with Post Pop Depression. Recorded in secret last year with Josh Homme, his Queens of the Stone Age bandmate Dean Fertita, and Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders, it feels like a deliberate epilogue for Pop’s storied career; Pop has suggested in interviews that it may be his final album, and the lyrics are preoccupied with exhaustion, resignation, and mortality, haunted by the 2014 death of Scott Asheton and, of course, the even fresher wound of Bowie’s recent passing. If this is indeed the last we hear from Iggy Pop, however, it’s a strong way to go out: contemporary but timeless-sounding, it’s an album that retains Iggy’s vitality and edge without turning him into an embarrassing aging-punk minstrel show.
As always happens when a deeply admired artist releases a strong album, I’d love to hear what Iggy might do next. But he’s also earned the right to hang up his mantle if that’s what he wants to do (figuratively, of course–I doubt anyone as clothing-averse as Iggy would actually own a mantle). Keep recording his radio show; write another memoir; come move in with me and be my cool stepdad; you know, that stuff. More than anything else, Iggy Pop is a survivor: battle-scarred not only by depression and drug abuse, but by the vicissitudes of half a decade in a fickle and exploitative music industry. The fact that Post Pop Depression exists at all is a kind of miracle–and not just in the sense that most betting folks back in the day expected Iggy to be dead by 1980. “I’ve nothing but my name,” Pop sings, then whispers at the end of the new album’s haunting, elegiac “American Valhalla.” What a name, though, and what a life. Thanks for sharing it with us, Jim.