“I’m a wreck/What’d ya expect?” snarls Iggy Pop during “Sunday,” one of 9 songs the punk rock Godfather and alternative music progenitor co-wrote with Queens of the Stone Age mastermind Josh Homme for the freshly released “Post Pop Depression” (Loma Vista).
It’s a legitimate question, even if Iggy delivers it with a leer and a wink. Few have lived harder than Iggy, whose “Search & Destroy” mission with the Stooges ended in destruction before he’d hit the age of 30, and whose battles with substances, though long in the past, are the stuff of rock legend. It’s amazing the guy is still with us, to say nothing of releasing albums as strong as “Post Pop Depression,” a collection that looks back to the primal stomp of “Lust For Life,” brings in some of the decadent gumbo that fueled “The Idiot,” and still leaves plenty of room for Homme’s desert-baked guitar lines and simultaneously sinister and sublime melodies to make their mark.
“Post Pop” is an album that finds its narrator – Iggy, in his finest foreboding post-Jim Morrison croon – contemplating the void, and not much liking what he finds there. “I’ve shot my gun, I’ve used my knife/This hasn’t been an easy life/I’m hoping for American Valhalla,” he sings during the downright frightening “American Valhalla,” a song that finds the notoriously irascible Pop wondering “If I have outlived my use.” This is a theme echoed throughout the album, from the Ennio Morricone-on-magic-mushrooms Spaghetti Western strut of “Vulture” through the sly, sexy and depraved “Sister Midnight”-like groove of “Gardenia” – Iggy is hell-bent on ruminating over the lives of the depraved and fatally flawed.
The strongest tunes here echo Iggy’s beloved Doors as they conjure a deep, dramatic, end-of-the-highway gloom, a gothic twilight that the singer seems to recognize as home. Somehow, the combined effect is not at all depressing, but celebratory, a triumphant road report from someone who has spent the last 40 years being dragged down a desert highway behind a car. The music itself helps to dull the edges of Pop’s not-quite-depression, as Homme is joined by Queens of the Stone Age/Dead Weather guitarist/keyboardist Dean Fertita and Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders in service of a refined racket redolent of Hunt and Tony Sales’ contributions to the fabled “Lust for Life” sessions. It’s to Iggy’s eternal credit that “Post Pop Depression” sounds like the work of a young man brimming with ideas, not a 68 year-old who is one of the last men standing from his rock ‘n’ roll generation. But, hey – what’d ya expect?
Jeff Buckley was my Kurt Cobain.
While the rest of the world was obsessing over Cobain’s Nirvana, I was fixated on Buckley’s 1994 debut “Grace,” a record that represented a talent so radical and profound that it dwarfed the competition. His multi-octave voice could suggest Nina Simone at one point, a young Robert Plant at another, and Pakistani Quwwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan at the next. His songwriting was equally impressive, based on extended chord voicings and open tunings redolent of Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, but forward-looking enough to become a major influence on the likes of Radiohead and, later, Muse.
Buckley was the best his generation had to offer, and he was just getting started when he drowned while swimming in the Mississipp River in May of 1997, while taking a break from tracking his sophomore effort, which would be released in incomplete form as “Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk”. There’s not much languishing in the vaults awaiting posthumous release, sadly, but “You and I” (Columbia) still represents a treasure for Buckley fans.
These recordings are basically demos, recorded in 1993 shortly after Buckley signed with Columbia Records, and just prior to the recording of “Grace”. They’re sparse recordings, featuring just voice and guitar, and incredibly, considering how soon after these sessions “Grace” was completed, Buckley didn’t have too many of his own songs together yet. Most of “You and I” is made up of covers, but lord, what covers they are – a take on Bob Dylan’s “Just Like A Woman” displays Buckley’s ability to make any song his own; Sly & the Family Stone’s “Everyday People” is a one-man acoustic-funk raver; a pair of Morrissey/Johnny Marr (“The Boy with the Thoirn in His Side” and “I Know it’s Over”) gems are reimagined as elegiac epics; and the Louis Jordan-associated “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” probably could’ve been a jazz musician too, if he’d lived long enough.
Buckley’s “Grace” is one of the 10 best rock albums of the 90s, and an argument could be made that it is indeed the very best. Everyone should own it. “You and I” is primarily for completists, but if you are one, you’ll love it.