Josh Homme produces Iggy Pop’s latest existential, Queen-sy-esque outing, Post-Pop Depression.
In the opening track ‘Break into your Heart’ Iggy states his intentions: “I’m gonna break into your heart/I’m gonna crawl under your skin…And follow till I see where you begin.” The process of understanding another for him is the eventual “Walls come tumbling down”. The pretensions are gone. There’s no more resistance. This resolve starts an album that’s fighting through the pretension to existential reflection: deeper glimpses into the mind of old-school punkster, Iggy Pop.
I’ve never really been a huge fan of Iggy Pop. I owned the first Stooges album and loved the early punk vibes. It wasn’t until last year that I found out how involved David Bowie was in establishing some of the highest points of Pop’s career. They both spent a few years in Berlin, spending time with Brian Eno and writing seminal albums (Pop’s The Idiot and Lust for Life and Bowie’s ‘Berlin’ trilogy which included Heroes). This latest album with Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, Post-Pop Depression, follows the same collaborative trajectory – now we have a bit of Homme, a bit of Pop.
This album is very Queens. Apart from tracks such as Vulture and German Days, it’s ...Like Clockwork-era Queens plus Iggy. This is not a bad thing at all. It works. Songs like Gardenia has funky bass in the verses and a catchy chorus. The song discusses a woman, Gardenia, and her tattered lifestyle (with possible allusions to Billie Holiday).
‘American Valhalla’ discusses one having done so many things in life and desiring for someone to point to a ‘heavenly’ place, and how to get there. (To note is that Valhalla is the mythological place where those that have died bravely in the heat of battle go). It’s an existential observation on the difficulties of life faced by the brave and heroic, that only just falls short of an Albert Camusean existential position; except that Pop’s hoping that perhaps there might be a place on the other side: “Where is American Valhalla?/Death is the pill that’s hard to swallow.” The conclusion in the end is not sacrifice or one’s deeds or possessions, but one’s name: “I’ve nothing but my name” – a mantra that Pop repeats at the end in his raspy voice.
‘Sunday’ picks things up again in a danceable beat which is easily the funnest song on the album. This song to me is the most interesting in relation to the desired reprieve that Sunday has for Pop as he sings:
“The key to everything, I crawl for Sunday
When I don’t have to move
Caught up in dreams untangled one day
Where I don’t have to prove
The days grow old and finally Sunday
A Sunday afternoon
I’ve got it all, and so what now?”
The Bible discusses Sunday as the Sabbath, allocated by God as a day of rest. Pop’s use of the Biblical image of Sunday is almost a cry for the day of reprieve as seen in ‘American Valhalla.’ A common perception of preachers is simply that they tell people what to do on Sundays. Pop playfully uses these images as describing the pressures of fame that drive him into the ground: “Do what they say/and do what they say/till Sunday/Until I’m black and blue/Oh, what can I do?” Unfortunately for Pop this is unresolved; there is no holy rest – “Got all I need and it is killing me and you” – A shared burden between Iggy and the listener.
The final song, ‘Paraguay,’ summarises the existential movement of the album into one of romanticism – a fleeing from modern life and celebrity into the untouched country of Paraguay. The summary is in the a cappella moment of the start of the song: “Wild animals they do/Never wonder why/Just do what they goddamn do.” Animals aren’t caught up in existential crises, they just act. They’re not caught in the despair of the human condition. The spoken word section has Pop’s passionate criticism of modern life and people, and of being ruled by fear and overwhelmed by knowledge and technology. Paraguay is a place where he will retreat from these trappings to heal himself.
I brushed up on some of Pop’s Stooge era and 70s solo era while listening to this and noticed how his lyrics are often funny, sarcastic or just banal (just listen to how bored the (fun) song ‘Nightclubbing’ from The Idiot is). Post-Pop Depression is cynical, occasionally profound and regretful. It is depressing.
While listening to this I couldn’t but help how close Pop gets to being the Teacher from the book of Ecclesiastes. In the start of the spoken word section of ‘Paraguay,’ Pop exclaims: “There’s nothing awesome here/Not a damn thing/There’s nothing new/Just a bunch of people scared.” The Teacher of Ecclesiastes claims that there’s “nothing new under the sun.” All is futile in the end – a striving after the wind.
Pop’s reflections are realistic and raw, and hopefully in his old age (the guy is 68), he comes to see the true rest that can come from Sunday.
Review Medium: 180 Gram Vinyl Release