Iggy Pop is the last old gnarled tree standing in the empty field of rock and roll. The flesh on his bones splits like aging oak. His low-lying bellow comes deep from the root. Last month Pop released Post Pop Depression, his seventeenth album. On it he teams up with Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal and Them Crooked Vultures. Dan Fertita, also from QOFSTA and The Dead Weather, plays bass and guitar while Matt Helders, drummer for The Arctic Monkeys, takes on percussion.
The collaboration makes perfect sense. Homme preserves the scuzz of Pop’s early days with the Stooges, but adds to it a tight-lipped air of cool. The guitars are thick like hamburger meat running alongside Pop’s chiseled scowl and the rhythm section provides a steady anchor.
The album opens with “Break Into Your Heart.” The song comes through on the echoes trailing off the walls of a drainage pipe. Pop gives fair warning of his relentless love to whomever might be in its path.
“Gardenia,” the album’s first single, follows. The screws in your neck loosen. The whole song rides on a rollicking bass line that gets the body moving like an inflatable air dancer. The chorus is an act of hypnosis. “All I wanna do is tell Gardenia what to do tonight,” Pop sings in an up and down cascade with Homme’s high-pitched vocals shadowing in the background.
The next song, “American Valhalla,” almost sounds like the background music from a lost episode of The Addams Family with Lurch creeping around the back room. A mellotron adds the eerie to the spooky of Pop’s vocals. “I shot my gun / I used my knife / This hasn’t been an easy life,” he sings.
When the cavernous maw of Iggy Pop unhinges the grumble of decades past unfurls out. With every word uttered one can visualize the deep creases of his face moving in rhythm. His Adam’s apple vibrates back and forth with each syllable.
“Vulture” starts with a wooden guitar lick that sounds like a throwaway demo. But, then Pop’s voice drops into the song like sewer sludge and you’re suddenly put on alert. “Fat black vulture white head hung low / Chewing dead meat by the side of the road / His evil breath smells just like death,” he warns dryly. The chorus sounds like the call of warning from an Old Western fight scene. Pop and Homme each take three slow steps in opposite directions before drawing their weapons.
Homme’s work with Them Crooked Vultures, his other project with Dave Grohl on drums and John Paul Johns on bass, seeps a bit into “German Days.” The song sounds like it could have come from those sessions with the guitar cutting quick on the off-step with the drums.
“Chocolate Drops” is a slow dark disco lilt. “When your love of life is an empty beach / Don’t cry,” Pop advises. Post Pop Depression ends with “Paraguay” a lacerating beat down with Pop calling bullshit on our world of constant unending information and the phonies that willingly prop it up. The snarling hero of our destructive tendencies still has enough saliva to spit back into the world.