Album of the Week: Iggy Pop, 'Post Pop Depression'


Iggy Pop, 'Post Pop Depression'
Iggy Pop, 'Post Pop Depression' (Loma Vista Recordings)

The shadow of David Bowie hangs over the new album from Iggy Pop, Post Pop Depression — and that's actually a good thing. A collaboration with Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme, Post Pop Depression is Iggy's first new solo rock album outside the Stooges (who reunited for albums in 2007 and 2013) since 2003, and it's also one of Iggy's best. To get to the present, let's first recap a bit of the past.

Bowie's relationship with Iggy is the stuff of legend, myth and even a film (Velvet Goldmine). Iggy inspired Bowie in the early '70s with his manic energy and persona in the Stooges, whom Bowie was instrumental in getting to England to record the Raw Power album. Bowie seemed to thrive on Iggy's ability to physically manifest himself in his songs, a viscerally brutal American in a way the measured Brit could never become. Raw Power would flop on release in 1973, with the Stooges imploding soon after. Reconnecting in Los Angeles in 1975 after Iggy checked himself into a mental institution, the duo eventually decamped to Berlin to make music and to try to get clean — Bowie having pushed his body and fame as far as he could go as well.

From the famous Berlin period came Bowie's Low and Heroes, but perhaps more importantly, the time in Berlin generated Iggy's first two solo albums, The Idiot and Lust For Life. The Idiot was described by Iggy as "a cross between James Brown and Kraftwerk," while Lust For Life would push more towards Iggy's rock roots and yield his biggest successes — if success can be measured by a song's use to sell Carribean Cruises — melding manic Dionysian rockers like "Lust for Life" or "Some Weird Sin" with thoughtfully harrowing tales like "Turn Blue" or "The Passenger" and the tongue-in-cheek humor of "Success." Although Iggy Pop and David Bowie would cross paths again (Bowie helped produce 1986's Blah Blah Blah, and he drew attention to Iggy by covering "China Girl" on Let's Dance) and Iggy would find increasing success as time wore on, he never quite returned to the promise of his two 1977 albums.

Until now.

As Josh Homme told the New York Times, "Where those records pointed, it stopped. But without copying it," he continued, "that direction actually goes for miles. And when you keep going for miles you can't see these two records anymore."

Collaborating in secret, Post Pop Depression was cut in self-financed sessions in California throughout 2015, working with Dean Fertita from Queens of the Stone Age and the Dead Weather on guitars and keyboards, and Matt Helders from Arctic Monkeys on drums. Iggy's Berlin/Bowie period echoes throughout as a sonic blueprint, and the result is one of the most satisfying efforts of Iggy's career. He doesn't compete with the ghost of the Stooges as he so often has over the past three decades, nor does he take a detour to sing French jazz cabaret. Instead, Iggy is free to spread his baritone over grooves and explorations laid down by the band. From the Queens-like opener "Break Into Your Heart" to the funk-punk of "Sunday" to a closing rant on "Paraguay," Iggy's voice and writing are alive, taking us on a journey past a broken America and broken relationships, and revealing what it must be like to climb to the top of the mountain and suddenly feel alone.

As he reaches the end of what might be his last-ever album, Iggy sums up his persona over nearly 50 years of rock, proclaiming, "I wanna be your basic clod who made good / and went away while he could." We are The Passenger, Iggy and Josh are taking turns at the wheel, and in that car, we're cool just riding shotgun.

Iggy Pop's Post Pop Depression releases Friday, March 18, on Loma Vista Recordings. Get a first listen to the album here.

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