Iggy Pop is ready to die.
With his 17th studio album Post-Pop Depression, the legendary “Godfather of Punk” has decided to confront his growing age and eventual end. Although there’s been no public announcement of Pop’s demise, it seems Pop has decided that now is the opportune time to record his apparent swan song. The result is a record that bares Pop’s soul in all its wretched glory and asks a difficult question: “What do we do post-Iggy Pop?”
Pop isn’t going out alone. The album includes a killer backing band comprised of Queens of the Stone Age members Josh Homme and Dean Fertita, along with Arctic Monkeys’ drummer Matt Helders. While they’re all stars in their own right, Pop is still the main focus of the record.
Musically speaking, Post-Pop Depression has been referred to as a sort of “spiritual successor” to his work in the mid-70s, namely albums The Idiot and Lust for Life (1977). Fans will enjoy the return of what is arguably Pop’s best work. Newcomers would do well to go back to these albums before diving into Post-Pop, but the new album could still serve as an entry point to Pop’s music.
The album’s opener “Break Into Your Heart,” is a good start as the guitars buzz and sound rough around the edges. The bass line is thick and chugs along nicely with the drums, which sound punchy and crisp. The addition of piano and horns in the background round out the sonic spectrum.
What stands out, however, is Pop’s vocal delivery. His voice is worn and gravelly, like an old crooner singing in a smoky lounge. As he sings the hook, “I wanna break into your heart,” we get the sense that this request is not some sort of romantic gesture. Rather, Pop is begging to be remembered. He wants to be in your heart, to “crawl under your skin” and remain there long after he’s gone.
On the track “American Valhalla,” Pop turns his eyes to the heavens and asks if there’s an afterlife waiting for him and, if so, just how the hell does he get in? Helders and Fertita hold down a firm, throbbing rhythm section while what sounds like a xylophone carries the unnerving melody along with Pop. It provides a certain avant-garde playfulness until the surprisingly grim ending in which Pop, over complete silence, growls, “I’ve nothing but my name.”
Although these seem to be dire times for Pop, he’s still got some wild child left in him. The tracks “Sunday,” “German Days” and “Paraguay” lean on the more punk-inspired style of Lust for Life. Homme, Fertita and Helders bring in their modern rock sensibilities and give the tracks broader listener appeal without forsaking Pop’s unique sonic identity.
Speaking of sonic identity, the presence of Homme on this record will be obvious for those familiar with his work. Since he serves as both a band member and producer, it’s not hard to find his fingerprints all over the album. Whether it’s the songwriting or the sound of the guitars, the album is clearly influenced by Homme’s desert-rock style. Overall, his method mixes well with Pop’s style but some fans may prefer a subtler producer’s touch.
Above all else, the specter of death hangs around the neck of this album like an albatross. You won’t find the viciously fun proto-punk of Pop’s early days with The Stooges or the infectiously catchy hooks of songs like “Lust for Life” or “The Passenger.” What we do get is an album that looks at an artist facing the end. While there’s no indication that Pop will be leaving the living anytime soon, he seems to be ready to pack his bag. On closer “Paraguay,” he sings “I just thought, ‘Well f**k it man’/I’m gonna pack my soul and scram.”
Post-Pop Depression was released March 18 and is available on CD and vinyl and can be streamed on Spotify.