Even geniuses can lose their knack. In the history of pop music, numerous prodigies who had perfected a stunning original sound at a very early stage eventually came to struggle with innovation when their past achievements became a burden. Unfortunately, this fate now befalls none other than the godfather of punk himself. In his newest album, “Post Pop Depression,” Iggy Pop tries to reinvigorate his late-’70s sound by recruiting Josh Homme of Queens of The Stone Age as producer. But despite snippets of brilliance, the experiment sounds like a forced innovation and fails to impress.
To be fair, Iggy has never lacked innovative spirit. From his debut with The Stooges to his collaborations with David Bowie to his independent projects, he has consistently added new elements to his rough, direct, impassioned style. In his last two albums, he took a surprising turn towards exploring French jazz and gave new interpretations to classics like “Les Feuilles Mortes.” In contrast, “Post Pop Depression” is much more similar to Iggy’s earlier works, especially 1977’s Bowie-produced “The Idiot.” Both albums are collaborations, and both combine the rawness of Pop’s voice with thick layers of sound, the former even paying tribute to the Berlin-recorded latter with a song titled “German Days.”
However, almost 40 years later, “Post Pop Depression” sounds more like a B-side to “The Idiot” than an improvement upon it. To begin with, Homme is no Bowie. He has simply copied the Queens of The Stone Age’s style and pasted it beneath Iggy’s voice with virtually no modification including the harsh, repetitive guitar riff, the thick bass line, and the fast, restless drumbeats. Hearing these musical qualities in an Iggy Pop album is refreshing but not necessarily compelling, since they do not always work well with Iggy’s hoarse, nasal voice. Moreover, the album lacks interesting melodies to balance out the simplistic instrumentals. Tracks like “Gardenia” and “Break Into Your Heart” are catchy but far from powerful or even impressive. Songs like “American Valhalla” and “Vulture” do not have compelling tunes and rely on uninspired attempts at stylistic innovation to sound interesting, to poor effect.
“Sunday,” the third single from the album, is a good representative of the LP’s overall mediocrity. It opens with standard Queens of The Stone Age-style drumbeats and a simple guitar riff; Pop joins in soon after with generic lyrics about the tedious working class life. After a tiresome chorus, the backing vocal contributes a repetitive phrase in a style so run-of-the-mill that the track sounds like any one of the sloppily produced pop songs played in grocery stores. Even a brilliant guitar solo from Homme cannot save the song from being a letdown.
The last song, “Paraguay,” sweeps away the prior disappointment with anger, earnestness, and raw energy. More than anything, it takes away the distracting guitar and bass riffs and brings back an Iggy Pop who sounds eager, intimate, forthright and powerful—all the qualities that make him a great rocker. The first part of the song is both poetic and epic, and in the second part Pop directly shouts out to the audience with great anxiety, as if he himself is annoyed by the quality of the album. “There's nothing awesome here / Not a damn thing,” he begins, eventually escalating to “You take your motherfucking laptop / And just shove it into your goddamn foul mouth.” The provocative pronouncement ends with Pop almost losing his voice as he screams, “And I'm gonna go heal myself now, yeah!” Then—no riff, no backing vocal, just a neat, clean end.
During “Paraguay”, Pop becomes once again the madman who writes songs with urgent messages and sings them with raw power. Unfortunately, such unrestrained brilliance lasts for only those six minutes.
—Staff writer Tianxing V. Lan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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