Iggy Pop is a musical workhorse. He’s released 23 full-length studio albums from 1969 to 2016, and his performative exploits—like self-mutilation, caterwauling screams, and eschewing all manner of T-shirt in favor of bare-chested glory—make him a bonafide legend of punk. Iggy Pop has always pointed a towering middle-finger at the squeamish, and with his band The Stooges, existed as a stubborn champion of rebellion for 47 years. Pop’s grimy antics have refused to die, even as his counterparts become less grizzled with age.
While the 68-year-old’s music may have always suggested confrontation, it’s now taken a more subdued turn: Pop’s newest solo record, Post Pop Depression, isn’t an attempt to recapture the wild energy of Raw Power, nor is it a shot at redemption taken in the dark. It’s merely Iggy Pop being himself—the aging rocker whose creative vehicle isn’t yet running on fumes. Plus, having an all-star band comprised of Josh Homme, Dean Fertita (Queens Of The Stone Age) and Matt Helders (Arctic Monkeys) makes the record buzzworthy, if not immediately curious.
Post-Pop Depression is a study in bare-bones ’70s rock. The pace and style favors Pop’s throbbing monotone, which blankets each song with a warmth that’s both haunting and familiar. The album’s opener, “Break Into Your Heart,” sets a pretty darkened tone, using sparse guitars and foreboding synths to advance a sinister message: “I want to break into your heart, I want to crawl under your skin,” the singer drawls.
Then there’s the buoyancy and lightness of tracks like “Gardenia” and “Sunday.” These songs lilt more than they saunter, using catchy riffage to propel the singer’s grandfatherly baritone. Some lyrical quips are funny at times: On “Sunday,” Pop cracks wise, using glib similes to trash lawyers: “This street is as cold as a corporate lawsuit” he cries. “I’m a wreck, what did you expect?”
But “American Valhalla” is perhaps the deepest meditation present on Post Pop Depression. It’s emblematic of Pop in his current moment, searching for his place within the greater canon of rock ’n’ roll. “I’ve shot my gun, I’ve used my knife. This hasn’t been an easy life,” the garage-rock veteran proclaims in a dreary verse. The song ends with the singer declaring “I’m nothing but my name.”
Most of the music reflects a kind of mid-paced and downcast feel. As the tracks bleed into each other, at times there’s too much stylistic similarity. But any feeling of monotony is cut short by songs like “Vulture” or “German Days,” which mixes playful ’70s guitar-riffs with a dark, flourishing chorus.
Iggy Pop revealed in February that this record might be his last. “I feel like I’m closing up after this. That’s what I feel. It’s my gut instinct,” the singer said on Beats1 Radio. And if that remains true, Post Pop Depression will be a pretty graceful way to bow out after all these years.