Review by Thomas Nath
It’s a particularly pertinent time for Iggy Pop to release a new record. Only a couple months have passed since the death of his collaborator and fellow proto-punk pioneer, David Bowie. Bowie’s passing--aside from being a great loss to the music industry--served as yet another signifier of how far removed we are from the era when guitar-based music ruled the charts.
In this context, Pop’s most recent output, Post Pop Depression, feels like a defiant reassertion of the qualities that made him a punk icon decades earlier. Produced by and recorded with Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, Depression feels like a beefed-up version of Iggy’s earlier work, landing somewhere between his first solo records and his earlier, harder material with his band The Stooges. The album clocks in at an economical 42 minutes over nine tracks, each of which explicitly refers back to the distorted, metallic guitar and heavy drums from which Pop’s signature swagger was born.
On first glance, this might seem to be a mere retread of ideas he’s explored before. It’s hard to hear album opener “Break Into Your Heart”—a stomping, creepy blues-rock love song—without being reminded of the similar metaphors in 1969’s “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” Similarly, “Sunday” could be lifted from his Berlin sessions with Bowie, with what sounds like identical reverb effects applied to Pop’s voice. But Homme and Pop jointly tap into a passion that fuels the album, adding an emotional dimension that elevates the music to stand among the better releases in each man’s discography.
Lyrically, the album generally offers a bleak outlook on the current state of music and modernity, as the record’s title suggests. Iggy’s never been one to mince words, and lines such as “His evil breath/Smells like death” (from “Vultures”) and “Like a wreck/I’m sinking fast” (“Sunday”) cloak the album in grave, serious tones. One might infer that Bowie’s death casts a pall over the music, highlighting Iggy as one of the last few punks left standing. The album can also be seen as a musical mourning process for a close friend.
If the album were longer, the dark tone might feel oppressive, but Pop and Homme seemingly tailored the record so as not to overstay its welcome. The nine songs run the garage-rock gamut from groovy, bluesier numbers (“American Valhalla”, “ Break Into Your Heart”) to more upbeat, poppier tracks (“Gardenia”, “Sunday”). Homme’s guitar punctuates and stabs through Pop’s lyrics, adding a shot of adrenaline and distinctiveness to what might otherwise be familiar hard-rock chord progressions.
Ultimately, Post Pop Depression is nothing groundbreaking, and isn’t likely to win over new fans who don’t enjoy Raw Power, The Idiot, or Lust for Life. But it’s remarkable for what it is: a statement of reaffirmation in the power of rock’n’roll by two musicians who’ve put in long careers of service to this influential type of music. Fans of punk or hard rock might find this one of the most enjoyable records in recent memory for its consistency, attention to detail, and unabashed dedication to keeping the spirit of guitar rock alive.