If Iggy Pop’s collaboration with Josh Homme, ‘Post Pop Depression’, really is his final album he’s going out with two middle fingers hoisted proudly in the air, says ROB INGLIS.
Earlier this year British artist Jeremy Deller organised a life drawing class at the New York Academy of Arts. The model was none other than Iggy Pop. According to Deller, the purpose of the project is to illuminate the essence of rock n’ roll. “[Iggy’s] body is central to an understanding of rock music and its place within American culture,” he said. “[It’s] … witnessed much and should be documented.” Iggy Pop is one of rock n’ roll’s last relics, a talisman from a bygone era.
But was that really who Deller’s students were drawing? After all, Iggy Pop is merely James Osterberg Jr.’s hard-living persona. So where does Iggy end and Jim Osterberg begin? Post Pop Depression, the artist’s seventeenth solo studio album, provides the answer.
Before they began work on the album Iggy sent a “dossier” to his new pen-pal and collaborator Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, which included fragments of Walt Whitman’s poetry, lyrics for a prospective collaboration, and notes about his days in Berlin with David Bowie. And so a creative partnership was forged. The duo recruited Dean Fertita of QOTSA and the Dead Weather to assist with guitars and keyboards, while Matt Helders of the Arctic Monkeys was roped in to man the drums.
Post Pop Depression was largely recorded at Homme’s home studio in Joshua Tree, California. But the QOTSA frontman wisely refrains from intruding too much on proceedings here. He contributes backing vocals and guitars, maintaining a safe distance from the foreground so as not to undermine the fact that this is, at the end of the day, an Iggy Pop album. Occasionally, Homme, Fertita, and Helders impress, but more often than not, Iggy’s sidemen are unremarkable, which only serves to highlight how commanding the rock n’ roll singer still is at age 68.
‘Gardenia,’ the lead single, is a slab of premium Midwestern sleaze. “Alone in a cheapo motel / By the highway to hell / America’s greatest living poet / Was ogling you all night,” Iggy intones in his signature drawl. It’s the closest Post Pop Depression comes to touching the canonical Iggy Pop singles produced by David Bowie – songs like ‘Nightclubbing’ and ‘Lust for Life.’
The snatches of humour on the record are offset by the theme of mortality, which is treated with a po-faced solemnity. Iggy rails against impending death in myriad ways. Faced with the prospect of his demise on ’In the Lobby,’ he becomes mentally unhinged, screaming, “I hope I’m not / Losing my life tonight.” Meanwhile, on ‘Vulture,’ he points the finger at charlatans and bootlickers: “He’ll jump your bandwagon / ‘Til it’s your corpse he’s draggin’.”
“Iggy is riding into the sunset with two middle fingers hoisted proudly in the air, raving like a lunatic”
The last track on the album is ‘Paraguay,’ a reserved affair until its final three minutes. As the guitars crunch with emphatic force, Iggy commences a rant of titanic proportions. Respite isn’t to be had until the record’s over. “You take your fuckin’ laptop, just shove it into your goddamn foul mouth, down your shit-heel gizzard, you fucking phony, two-faced, three-timing piece of turd,” he snarls.
If this is Iggy’s last album, as is being reported, then there couldn’t have been a better way for him to go out. In Paul Trynka’s biography of the singer, he notes that the young Jim Osterberg was fascinated by tales of the Old West. Here, he realises his dream of becoming a cowboy, riding into the sunset with two middle fingers hoisted proudly in the air, raving like a lunatic.
“I’ve nothing but my name,” utters Iggy in a hauntingly sonorous tenor at the end of ‘American Valhalla.’ Post Pop Depression sees Jim Osterberg reconcile himself with his depraved alter ego. The end of Iggy Pop is now, his memoriam this album. Yes, our favourite Stooge is dead. But, for the first time since Iggy occupied his body so many years ago, Jim Osterburg is finally given the chance to live.
Post Pop Depression is out now through Caroline.