Post Pop Depression is tagged as a solo album from Iggy Pop, his 17th solo album in fact, and his 21st studio album once his work with The Stooges and James Williamson are factored in, but no secret has been made of Joshua Homme’s involvement. Upon first hitting play on the album, I was struck by an immediate, disconcerting, familiarity: was this a Desert Sessions release? Queens of the Stone-Age outtakes? That is the musical elephant in the room. Variously labelled as the record’s producer, co-creator, and Pop’s collaborator, Homme’s fingerprints are heavy and indelible on Post Pop Depression.
Homme is by no means a bad song-writer or musician, but he is by and large a genre musician, working brilliantly in stoner/desert rock: he just seems to have a habit of bringing a sonic homogeneity to projects he is involved in – one need look no further than Them Crooked Vultures, Homme’s project with Dave Grohl and Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, which, for all its strengths, sounded like a weaker Queens of the Stone-Age record – and, on Post Pop Depression, this effect is strengthened by Homme bringing fellow Queens of the Stone-Age member Dean Fertita into the mix. Now, Pop did approach Homme about working together and recording an album, and I doubt anybody believes that, even at 68, Pop was strong-armed into going along with a sound he didn’t want, but it feels disingenuous to approach this as a solo album from Pop as opposed to a collaborative album from Pop and Homme, or even a group effort that just happens to feature Pop and Homme in the line-up.
Perhaps a hint as to why this is labelled a solo album exists in the title, Post Pop Depression. Lyrically the record indicates that Pop is at a point in his life where he is contemplating death and legacy, and these concerns are clear on American Valhalla when Pop opens with the lines “I have no plans/I have no debt/But mine is not the carefree set/I’m looking for American Valhalla”, and later laments that “this hasn’t been an easy life” and ends by repeating “I’ve nothing but my name”, with the final repetitions being delivered as a weary growl. Rumours are circulating that this may be Pop’s final album, so maybe this record exists as a coup de grâce to his long, influential, career, with solo billing being granted in deference and recognition of his place in the canon of rock music.
As Post Pop Depression progresses, it starts to become more confident in asserting its own identity and sound. Sure, the aforementioned familiar sounds, riffs, and motifs are still there – sometimes jarringly so – but these start to become steps on the journey and increasingly spaced out, allowing each song to expose its unique sound and personality. In The Lobby displays a funky, rock ’n’ roll, swagger with crunchy, classic rock, guitar and solid rhythmic work from Fertita on bass and Matt Helders on drums. Sunday is 70’s glam – with more than a passing resemblance to KISS – wearing modern mascara, but somehow the song ends with a ballroom waltz. A punchy acoustic guitar provides the groundwork for Vulture to build its spaghetti western motif, and Chocolate Drops is juvenile fun while copping the seriousness of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Paraguay, a rhapsodic manifesto for aggressively retiring, or perhaps just running away, closes Post Pop Depression.
Once you get past Homme’s staple motifs and sounds – if indeed, like me, you find them to be something that needs to be gotten past in this instance – Post Pop Depression is an album that rewards repeat listenings, with a variety of aural textures becoming apparent, and Pop’s lyrics awaiting exploration. Should this prove to be the last album from Iggy Pop it will stand as a stylish epitaph to a storied career, and, if not, it promises interesting things to come .