If you had told me late last year that 2016 would herald the coming of masterpiece albums by David Bowie and Iggy Pop, I probably would have been a bit skeptical. And yet, here we are. January brought us a Bowie album that has made my all time favorites list. I speaking of course, of Blackstar, released just two days before the unexpected death of Mr. Bowie. It is one of those rare records that grows in stature with each listen. In fact, I love it even more now than I did when I reviewed it. Industrial pop jazz, it seemed to be the culmination of everything Bowie had striven to create over the last 25 years or so. It was also the greatest grand finale in rock n roll history. 2 1/2 months later, I have in my hands the latest record by David Bowie’s famous 70’s partner in crime, Mr. Iggy Pop. With increased rumblings of this being the last record Iggy will put out, it is fair to ask if this album “pulls a Bowie”. And the answer, my friends, is a resounding yes. Comparisons aren’t always fair, but I’d say it captures the vibe of those two albums Iggy did with Bowie – 1977’s The Idiot and Lust for Life while bringing some of the aggression back from his work with The Stooges. For good measure, there is some Leonard Cohen style crooning on a few songs. An essential listen, it is one of Iggy’s best albums.
Post Pop Depression began as a collaboration between Iggy Pop and Josh Homme, leader of Queens of the Stone Age and Eagles of Death Metal co-founder / drummer. In fact, Pop had sent Homme some lyrics and talked about his David Bowie collaborations. After some old school US Mail interactions, the two agreed to work together, bringing demo versions of songs to the studio. Rounding out the lineup are Dean Fertitia also of Queens of the Stone Age as well as The Dead Weather and Matt Helders of the Arctic Monkeys. With a band featuring such a pedigree of talents you’d expect great things – and you’d be right. The lyrics are poetic, direct, layered in metaphors, and obsessed with sex and death – sometimes all within the same song. What does a person feel like when there are more years behind him than in front? Ponder that for a moment and you’ll be approaching this record with the proper perspective.
The album begins with one of the best 1-2-3 punch in rock n roll history. Break Into Your Heart is the perfect album opener, Iggy as Leonard Cohen crooning his way around the tricky corners of life and love. The band grooves and sways behind him as he spits these gems “I’m gonna break into your heart / And follow till I get under your skin / And the wall comes tumbling down / And you finally let me in”. Gardenia was the first song unleashed on the public and it stands as the funkiest, catchiest song on the album. Self loathing while pining for a woman who has, as Iggy says “Your hourglass ass / And your powerful back”. Late night music, perfectly executed. Has an artist ever been so self-aware as when Iggy sings “Alone in the cheapo motel / By the highway to hell / America’s greatest living poet / Was ogling you all night”? I don’t think so. American Valhalla is my favorite song on the album. This is Iggy Pop staring into the abyss, the void, death. He has never sounded so vulnerable in his vocals, and I think it is one of his finest performances. Valhalla, of course, is from Norse mythology and is an enormous hall in Asgard, ruled over by the God Odin. It is the afterlife for legendary heroes and kings. The bass line is absolutely killer on this song, something that’ll get lodged in your head. The song builds and builds until the last, breathtaking delivery of the chorus for the final time along with the haunting fade out of the music and final spoken words from Iggy. “Where is 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 / I’ve nothing, but my name”. Stunning. After those 3 songs that open the record, the highlights keep on coming. Sunday feels a bit like something off of Lust for Life with its new wave vibe and some slinky vocals from Pop. Epic in scope, the song features amazing backing vocals from Josh Homme, girl group type backing vocals, and finally it segues into an orchestral epilogue. The first time I heard it, I wasn’t quite sure what was happening. It is perfect. Chocolate Drops is the slowest song on the record, and it is probably my 2nd favorite. Pop croons and sings his heart out here. The band kind of takes a backseat to Pop’s vocals, but there is some surf styled guitar and piano work throughout that is sublime. My favorite lyric on this album is the opening line. And you know, I think the opening verse can serve as sort of synopsis of the lyrical content of the entire album. “When your love of life is an empty beach / Don’t cry (Don’t cry) / When your enemy has you in his reach / Don’t die (Don’t die) / When it’s painful to express the things you feel (Inside) / When it hurts to share because they’re bare and real (So real) / So when every day is judgement day, I won’t pray (Don’t pray) / When there’s no one to share that empty chair, well OK (OK)”.
I’m seeing Iggy Pop in Seattle in about a week – from what I am reading, it’ll be one of the most amazing shows I’ve ever seen. I’m looking forward to hearing these songs live. If you even have a passing knowledge of Iggy or The Stooges, you’ll want to pick this album up. It is stunning, all the way through.