We are only a couple months into 2016 and there seems to be a theme of older, legendary artists coming back and putting out excellent material. With David Bowie and Elton John putting out great content, I was excited to see if Iggy Pop would be able to join them. Especially with this rumored to be his last album, I was hoping for special. It did not hurt that Pop was bringing on some of the greatest musicians working in rock now. I am a huge fan of Queens of the Stone Age and was excited to see what Josh Homme and Dean Fertita would bring to this. I do enjoy the Arctic Monkeys’ work so having Matt Helders on the drums got me excited.
As I was hoping, the youth that was added to this album definitely helped add to what made it so great. None of them stepped too far out of their comfort zones for this but considering how great they are in that comfort zone, I am not complaining. It was almost like listening to Iggy Pop sing over a Queens of the Stone Age song which is something I am sure many people will love.
As for Pop himself, he is definitely not overshadowed on his own album, something that I had been concerned about. My comments on his vocal delivery would probably be similar to what I would say about David Bowie’s on Blackstar. Iggy Pop is 68, he is not going to sound clean and polished, but considering his age he is ambitious with how he delivers some his lines. He attempts to hit higher notes and while it often does not sound great, the energy he is bringing forward is excellent.
The lyrics presented here have a consistent theme, as Pop looks back at his career and fame, something common for artists his age. “American Valhalla” is a stand out, which has Pop looking for some version of American paradise. He reflects on how death is the hardest pill to swallow and ends the track with a stern message that he is “nothing but my name.” This seems to clearly focus on the idea that once Pop dies, he will only have his name left. It is a deep message regarding a legacy, similar to what we got from Bowie on Blackstar.
After this there is definitely a shift towards Pop looking towards the decades of work he has put into his music career and the celebrity that has accompanied it. “In the Lobby” seems to focus on the crowds that come to see him and the messages he sends to them. I might be totally misreading this one but that is what I am getting from it. On “Sunday,” a song I relate to greatly as a college students, has Iggy Pop singing about how he spends his whole week getting to Sunday, the one day he is finally able to rest and relax.
The songs “Vulture” and “Chocolate Drops” seem to have similar themes about people working in the music industry. “Vulture” is a straightforward metaphor of how executives go around only looking for profits and do not care about anything else. The metaphor works but it offers little that is new to the table in its lyrics. “Chocolate Drops” is much more clever, and graphic, painting an image of how once you hit a certain high point in the industry, “your shit turns into chocolate drops.” I thought this was an entertaining song and was handled in a way where it came across better than it had any right to be.
The closing track, “Paraguay,” is one of the more interesting songs on here. It sees Pop going away to Paraguay, presumably, to get away from his fame and stress. The chorus is fun and catchy and for the first half of the song I was invested. That was until Pop goes on an over longed spoken word tirade about technology, which really did not work for me. The appeal of this album, for me, was seeing this older legend work with younger artists so to hear him insult more modern devices seemed to go against the idea of combining old and new.
Besides that, however, this is an overall great record that fans of Iggy Pop have been waiting too long for. So much talent was brought in for this and it all shows and if this is how Iggy Pop wanted to go out, it would be a great farewell. It would be a great ending to a legendary career and there is plenty of praise to give for this.
Best Tracks: Break Into Your Heart, Gardenia, American Valhalla, Sunday, Chocolate Drops
Worst Track: Vulture