“Wild animals they do
Never wonder why
Just to do what they goddamn do”
Lester Bangs was famously famous for being a difficult writer. Modern writers who dabble in rock music — whatever-the-fuck that’s even supposed to be these days – often screw it up because they try to do the same kind of stream-of-consciousness bullshit he was deservedly famous for. They don’t always do it well. He didn’t always do it well.
They serve up paragraph after paragraph about everything but the record they are supposedly listening to, which is supposed to symbolize the actual beat and feel of rock n roll. I suspect that Lester was listening to himself ramble on about the contents of Iggy Pop’s sock drawer a little bit more than he was actually listening to “The Idiot,” for example. I know this because I am prone to the same kind of self-indulgent crap he – and the rest of his pretenders — often stray towards.
Speaking of “The Idiot,” Josh Homme and Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age did a team-up with Matt Helders of Arctic Monkeys and Iggy Pop — to create what they certainly intend to be the spiritual successor to the solo records Iggy did with Bowie back in the 70’s. The completion of a “Berlin” trinity for Iggy and a natural progression of the style invoked on it and “Lust for Life.” That much is obvious from listening to Iggy and Josh gush about their partnership: about how they got together for it and how Iggy sent a parcel full of artifacts related to his German period, and about how Josh took 3 months to assimilate it. All of which is well and good, as far as backstory goes, but doesn’t get to the heart of the matter, which is: does Post-Pop Depression hold up as a great Iggy Pop solo record?
You can be forgiven if your knowledge of “rock history” is a little thin, pre-Nirvana. If you were born sometime in the past 30 years, your experience of rock history is probably tangled up in shitty movie soundtracks and VH1-style documentaries, produced by organizations too lazy to do investigative journalism about actual wars. They offer overblown sentimentality about the horrors of Vietnam, student protests, flower children and the “summer of love.” What these hucksters never bother explaining is how a fertile artistic culture full of unassailable social awareness and context produced so many artists who dropped dead while they were still young. In their version of history, the deaths of their rock n roll heroes are reduced to cautionary tales about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. It’s all very corporate and friendly and sad. They offer up endless reissues and vintage tee-shirts, while crying crocodile tears over the caricature of a dead superhero. It’s all tragedy, with a side of pathos and pornography.
To paraphrase Donald Trump, dead rock stars don’t mean shit. I like rock stars who survive.
Rock music – if it is anything at all – is a power that grants a more universal perspective to our shared experience of being young and human. That experience has been manipulated by outsiders to invoke a hunger to eat our fallen heroes and assume their power. The sense of tribe we should be feeling in our music and art is mutilated by commerce, and can’t survive it. We don’t feel a greater sense of belonging to the strange changes that define our shared experience of music because we have been trained from birth to buy an artifact of our experience instead. That we are led by idiots is a given. Everyone born in the post-post-modern era already understands this intuitively. Perhaps this is why disposable music is so obsessed with “retro fashion;” –human sacrifices look good in period costumes. We have zero sense of tribe or purpose outside of this urge to collect artifacts and collate data. We are mocked if believe in anything beyond our own immaculate consumption. That’s why Trump is popular on TV, and it’s what drives the economy of rock n roll, and pretty much everything else, as well.
Into this maelstrom struts Iggy Pop, shirtless at 68. Josh Homme calls him the last of the “one and only’s,” and he’s right. Pop has made 17 records, and each is itself an artifact of a particular moment in space/time. Iggy and Stooges recorded “Raw Power” for David Bowie in 1972, and unleashed a set of songs that launched a thousand bands. One of those songs also sells Audi’s on TV in 2016. What it was then — and what it is now — are two completely different things. My default position regarding this commercial was to be pissed off, which is stupid, really. It’s not like this is the first time Iggy has cashed out on one of his songs. “Lust for Life” has been selling cruises since Trainspotting. The truth is I want Iggy to get rich and retire to Paraguay, not because I want Post Pop Depression to be the last Iggy Pop record, but because I believe he has earned it. Who the hell am I to stand in judgement of my heroes for making a decent living off their art while they can still enjoy the scenery and the consolation prizes?
Post-Pop Depression is nine songs long. You can play it front to back in about 35 minutes. Most of the songs are very good rock n roll. A few of them are almost perfect. I could root through them all for you and tell you what to think about them, but what would be the point? You are either wired to love Iggy at this point, or you’re not. There’s not a lot of middle ground here. This isn’t a Coldplay record.
The truth is Lester Bangs was both a shit writer and a genius. He knew that good rock criticism is always subject to the rhythm of good rock n roll music. If a writer misses a beat, the audience bolts; –their attention span as short as a radio-friendly single. Rock criticism is the quantum physics of rock n roll. Analyzing a record is an intentional act that kills it fucking dead, as sure as observation solidifies a wave into a particle. It pins it down and labels it forever. “Here is actually here, and not – there.” Nothing is more dangerous, or useless to rock n roll. It doesn’t want or need to be classified or compared to other things, or even to itself. That was never the point.
That’s part of why so many artists die young: they get sick of being compared to a moment they stole from the day before yesterday. A record is by definition – an artifact of the past; a thing; a picture of a moment, which is over already. It doesn’t represent anything except its own history. It was born old and can only grow young again through interpretation and performance, through blood, piss, spit, and broken glass. And that’s hard. How can an artist possibly live up to an image of their perfect self? Iggy sings: “Everybody’s fucking scared, I’m talking to YOU!” Message received loud and clear.
By all accounts Iggy and Josh and the rest of the band are killing it every night on tour to resurrect their own Post-Pop Depression. I’ll find out for myself, April 2nd in Denver. Let’s hope they keep killin’ it until they don’t. At least we will always have Paraguay.
“I’m going to go heal myself, now.”