Release Date: March 18, 2016
Label: Loma Vista
It’s absurd to cavil about the loss of Iggy Pop’s “rawness.” Whatever you wanted from him, you either got in 1969 (okayyyy), or 1973, or 1977, or you decided to keep listening. Has he made another album as good as his first five? No, but 2013’s Scott Asheton reunion Ready to Die (billed as the Stooges, because nothing means anything) was as good as any other meat he’s thrown us over the last 39 years, and few rock stars can say they’ve had as much fun across the past four straight decades. Among Pop’s duet partners were the long-missed Jemina Pearl, B-52s’ up-for-anything Kate Pierson, the not-always-forgettable Sum 41, and Kesha — imagine Dr. Luke shuddering at the un-Auto-Tune-able 65-year-old sullying his bloodless mix. Song titles have included “Pussy Walk,” “Butt Town,” and “DDs.”
His 17th solo album, Post Pop Depression, adds “Chocolate Drops” to that deep-thought parade, which is about poop eating. Iggy Poop! Post Poop Depression! But no, really. It combines when-life-gives-you-lemons rhetoric with milk-milk-lemonade logistics, and it’s neither out of place nor particularly funny. Like much of Pop’s recent output, it Just Is. That says more about Iggy Pop’s last four decades than any review possibly could: He can sing about coprophilia in 2016 and it really won’t make anyone look up.
Like Elvis Costello or Neil Young or even (sometimes) Dylan, Pop’s become the guy who does This Album and then That Album: the one pairing him with new pop-punk acts, the one with Medeski Martin and Wood, the one with the French title and jazz pretensions… actually there were two of those. Somehow the reunion with his seminal proto-punk band managed to be worse than all of these, and the fake reunion with their only other currently living member managed to be better. While not quite as high-concept as the above-named, Post Pop Depression is another pairing with new jacks, in this case a couple Queens of the Stone Age.
Those guys haven’t been that great that often either. Despite the cyclical critical and commercial success of an album called friggin’ …Like Clockwork — an album you still can’t hum anything from — Josh Homme sunk a whole lot of style into Lullabies to Paralyze, Era Vulgaris, and his Them Crooked Vultures one-off, and not so many hooks. At this point Homme may be as iconic as Pop though, a stand-in for progressive guitar-defaulters everywhere: smart enough to troll homophobes with his band’s name, self-involved enough to not try to hit a “No One Knows” out of the park every time. He’s the rockist you can trust, greater than the sum of his parts. But despite Grohl-level (and often Grohl-linked) social capital, he rarely comes off like he’s having much fun on his own records.
Meanwhile, Pop’s increasingly box-checking discography veers dangerously close to novelty, and could use a bit of seriousness if he’s ever gonna pull off that elder statesman thing. So even with the presence of “Chocolate Drops,” Post Pop Depression helps Pop and his producer-sideman in equal measure, and it’s one of the better recent releases from both. Oddly enough, Pop’s wobbly voice sounds a lot like his dearly departed friend Bowie these days, focusing on campy theatrics for the lounge-y/spooky “American Valhalla,” which grafts a breezy vibraphone onto a suffocating Queens of the Stone Age bass lump. “Vulture” is even more outwardly campy, veering into Nick Cave territory: “An evil breath / Smells like death,” as well as “He’ll jump your bandwagon / Til it’s your corpse he’s draggin’,” with rung bells on the chorus for that red-right touch.
Despite the preponderance of T-bone-and-taters material in Pop’s back catalog, he still fares best against the backdrop of a good old capital-R Riff, like the chaotic ramble that erstwhile Queen and Dead Weather axe-wielder Dean Fertita saws away at on the best-in-show “German Days,” or the subtler figure that runs through the surprisingly My Bloody Valentine-ish single “Gardenia.” Another highlight has no real parallel in either’s catalog: The closing, six-minute “Paraguay,” a bluesy duet with Homme, inexplicably resembles the Bon Iver intro to Kanye’s “Monster.” Then it settles into that tuba-like bass whomp of a familiar Queens groove, with some tango-like keys plinking over top. It marches out to sea on an uncertain dinghy of tra-la-las before the Beefheart pirates take it captive for a sputtered, scatological outro: “And down your s**theel gizzard / You f**king phony, two-faced ,three-timing piece of turd / And I hope you s**t it out,” et cetera.
It’s hard to say if Homme and Pop are better served by the nine-track length or not. Post Pop Depression doesn’t feel particularly tight or focused, but neither dude is conceptual enough to really justify a larger sprawl. They’re both too old to not get in and get out, yet their solid collaboration feels slight anyway. You’re probably better off with Ready to Die and 2001’s Slipknot-nodding Beat ‘Em Up. Maybe even …Like Clockwork. Sometimes the s**t turns into chocolate drops, but that’s not necessarily a bet you should take.