Iggy Pop is having weirdo fun again. On his new album Every Loser, Iggy rocks out. He goofs off. He makes colorful, peculiar choices on songs that feel blessedly low-stakes. Backed by his latest assortment of rock ‘n’ roll mercenaries, with pop-minded rocker Andrew Watt at the helm, Iggy has delivered his most immediate, straightforward, energetic record in years. Though far from a masterpiece, it’s a welcome addition to the louder and more playful side of Iggy’s catalog.
We all probably conjure the same image of Iggy Pop in our minds — his torso shirtless and impossibly ripped, a Samson-like mane flowing past his shoulders, his face weathered and leathery yet somehow ageless. He has his personal aesthetic on lock. In some ways, Iggy has always been the same since emerging in the late 1960s, a thinking man’s feral rock star, louche and charismatic and self-destructive and well-read. Yet even that character sketch implies the man born James Osterberg has always been a complex artist. The Stooges offered a lot more than raw power. Pop’s solo discography is a winding road that veers between the experimental and accessible. And for the better part of a decade, he has seemed to be easing into a contemplative fadeout.
Ever since 2013’s suitably raunchy and aggressive Ready To Die, Iggy has been demonstrating just how prepared for death he actually is. He teamed up with members of Queens Of The Stone Age and Arctic Monkeys for 2016’s Post Pop Depression — a muted pastiche of his groovy Berlin classics — then got even more meditative and mercurial on 2019’s Free. The albums were fixated on aging, mortality, and loss; the latter was full of jazzy, contemplative soundscapes that became a canvas for Iggy’s crooning and spoken-word monologues, which at one point included a reading of Hollywood’s favorite Dylan Thomas poem. He was basically in You Want It Darker mode, but without the poetic chops to resonate all that deeply.
Fortunately, Every Loser pivots sharply from that headspace. Watt, Iggy’s producer and songwriting partner, has guided similar late-career efforts from Ozzy Osbourne and Eddie Vedder, but he’s a producer with one foot firmly planted in the pop mainstream. Watt came up playing guitar in Justin Bieber’s band and has credits with the likes of Dua Lipa, Lana Del Rey, and Charli XCX. He’s the guy who helped Miley Cyrus walk the line between rock and pop on Plastic Hearts and who shepherded Post Malone into acoustic ballad mode with “Stay.” Even when digging into the aggro side of his skill set, he tends toward melody and radio-friendly polish. Here, he does so with a team of veteran rockers from bands like Guns N’ Roses, Jane’s Addiction, blink-182, and Red Hot Chili Peppers, plus some of the last sessions from late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins.
On Every Loser, the rock songs rock hard, the new wave tracks beam brightly, and even the somewhat drippy acoustic ballad “Morning Show” is bolstered by a contagious forward momentum. Distortion-bombed opener “Frenzy” is one of the most ferocious Iggy Pop songs in recent memory, but it also boasts hooks upon hooks, its bright chorus harmonies giving way to gang-shouted punctuation. Closer “The Regency” segues from tense, jangly verses to a wide-open distorted chorus in which Iggy repeatedly declares, “Fuck the regency! Fuck the regency! Fuck the regency up!” In between are additional well-crafted rock songs like the synth-streaked “Strung Out Johnny,” the Stones-y “All The Way Down,” and the hardcore-goes-Broadway diss track “Neo Punk.” (Does Travis Barker recognize the irony of his involvement in a song in which Iggy skewers high-rolling celebrity punk rockers like himself and Machine Gun Kelly?) Your enjoyment of “Modern Day Rip Off,” the closest thing to a boilerplate rocker on this tracklist, will probably depend on how much irony you hear in Iggy’s reading of the line, “I ran out of blow a long time ago/ I can’t smoke a J, all my ducks fly away.”
That’s not the album’s only comedy bit. Mixed in among all the riff-slinging rock songs are quite a few larks like “New Atlantis,” a campy ode to “a beautiful whore of a city” somewhere south of Alabama and north of Cuba, and “The News For Andy,” a jaunty minute-long interlude in which Iggy reads informercial-esque copy about psychiatric treatment plans and auto insurance. “Comments,” a poppy post-punk track driven by Eric Avery’s bass, splits the difference between gloom and glitz and features more litmus-test lyrics, this time about social media. “Sell your stock in Zuckerberg and run/ Buy a passport to the end of fun,” Iggy beckons, before intoning, “Yeah, I’m lookin’ for a soulmate in those comments.”
This album’s focus on neon-bright rock ‘n’ roll and not-especially-deep social commentary might alienate Iggy’s more outré listeners. Anyone hoping for another weighty statement LP or a return to the genuine danger of his classic material might be disappointed. Instead, at 75, Iggy Pop has given us a bunch of delicious empty calories, a buffet of gauche sonic pleasure with more than enough personality to make up for its lack of profundity. Every Loser seems destined to join an underrated canon of albums from legacy artists, records that, while short of essential, would actually be entertaining to see performed between the hits at a live show. It adds up to nothing more — and nothing less — than a bunch of seasoned rockers having a blast under a crisp professional sheen. After years of bleary mood pieces, you just might find that all this weirdo fun is contagious.
Every Loser is out 1/6 on Atlantic/Gold Tooth.
Other albums of note out this week:
• Fireworks’ Higher Lonely Power
• Nicole Dollanganger’s MIMA
• YoungBoy Never Broke Again’s I Rest My Case
• Anti-Flag’s Lies They Tell Our Children
• Say Hi’s Elocution Prattle
• Earth’s Even Hell Has Its Heroes soundtrack