Iggy Pop, Post Pop Depression: 'Iggy is sick of respectability on his terse, sinuous and playful record', album review

Download: Gardenia;  American Valhalla; Sunday; Vulture; German Days

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The Independent Culture

At virtually the exact centre point of Post Pop Depression, halfway through the track “Sunday”, Iggy Pop lets slip the observation that “This job is a masquerade of recreation”.

It’s a telling moment: an indication that, despite all his apparently id-related indulgences, for Iggy rock music remains a calling with serious intentions and serious consequences, an occupation in which one can, under the cover of entertainment, smuggle in more meaningful concerns – at its most extreme, it can be philosophy masquerading as recreation. 

In general, once past the initial revolutionary blurt of the early Stooges albums, Iggy’s always been at his best when channelling his power into these serious themes, from the existential motorik of “The Idiot” and “Lust for Life”, to the dark ruminations upon degraded imperial power in 1993’s American Caesar.

Frustratingly, he’s often lapsed back into juvenile tat like Naughty Little Doggie, though recent releases like Après and Préliminaires – the latter inspired by a Michel Houellebecq novel – have found him exploring jazz-crooner territory far from rock’n’roll of any stripe.

So it’s a relief to find him returning to hard rock music with Post Pop Depression, and serious about it again, apparently broaching the issue of “what happens when your utility is at an end”. 

The album was produced by Josh Homme, lured into collaboration via intriguing text messages from the singer.


Joined in the desert studio at Joshua Tree by Homme’s Queens of the Stone Age bandmate Dean Fertita and Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders, they crafted an album by turns terse, sinuous and playful, streaked with disgust and delight in roughly equal measure.

“American Valhalla” is the obvious centrepiece, Iggy wrestling with notions of nobility and death, legacy and life’s work, ultimately reaching the conclusion, once the track has concluded, that “I’ve nothing but my name”.

Musically, it’s an odd piece, opening with marimba tinkling a sort of gamelan chinoiserie, but soon crunching into a rugged bass groove that rolls like tank-tracks through the song.

It’s not the only case here of songs changing direction part-way through: the aformentioned “Sunday” proceeds with stylishly-wrought, chunky panache, its rolling funk-metal riff slashed with tart guitars, until the last 90 seconds, when it slips into wistful waltz-time orchestration, as if you’ve returned to the wrong room to find pensioners at a tea-dance. 

He’s not, one surmises, a particularly satisfied man, something that comes across caustically in the virulent contempt of “In the Lobby”, an expression of his desperate desire to escape the empty conformity of socialising (“It’s all about the hang”) for something more satisfying. “I follow my shadow tonight,” he observes, and who could blame him? 

“German Days”, presumably a reference to his mid-Seventies European sojourn with Bowie, is another Janus-faced track, its terse, jackhammer guitar intro giving way to a loping, swingy groove as Iggy croons like some suave madman.

But eventually the album ends up in another continent entirely, with the singer fantasising about escaping to “Paraguay”. “I’m goin’ where sore losers go,” he proclaims, gaily trilling “tra-la-la” in anticipation; but there’s something else driving his impulse, as the lyric lingers in appreciation of wild animals’ instinctive lives, unmediated by morality or manners, before the tracks ends with Iggy fulminating angrily against everyone.

It’s as if he’s grown so sick and tired of the veneers of respectability cocooning American sensibilities that, reverting to type once more, he wants to be your dog again.