Heed the man who has seen every thing and has gone to every place, the one who lived wholly for the whole of some eras while merely surviving through others, the rebel who lay waste to convention as a youth, took flight from his own revolution’s self-destructive fruits in adulthood, and was then forced, by the forsaking speed of time alone, to chase after the trends he helped create for many years to come, desperately determined for endless years to find his place again among forward-marching pupils of his own – until the sudden day came when, exhausted from the chase, he stopped, and rather than seek constant reinvention like so many of his aging peers as a means to keep up with the march of time, decided to settle, finally, into his own skin. This is a man who survived; a man whose greatest attribute – his spiritedness – not only let him burn and luster too brightly too quickly, but also compelled him to have to take the longer and more toilsome road towards rediscovery and artistic regeneration.
Now, one could say that he is standing tall as a rebel once more, no longer chasing but creating purely based on what his spirit craves, doing as he pleases, doing what he intuits to be crucial regardless of outside demand, whether it be a record of musical standards, an album of chansons, or a return to his musical origins to fortify its legacy and make mature its previously young, unprocessed fury by guiding that juvenile vision towards the wisdom of elder-age. This man, Iggy Pop, continues his growth as an artist to this day with each new act of daring. What he has to say must be heard, must be heeded, for a man that has failed, succeeded, and survived the way that Iggy Pop has is not creating recklessly, and he wouldn’t say what he has to say if he wasn’t driven, pestered, and prodded forward, outwards into the crowd, by his sharp and relentless spirit. And that spirit, Pop confides on the profound and urgent Post Pop Depression, is on the verge of being compromised.
Something has gone astray in the present-day, Pop discerns – something more paralyzing than destitution or war. And what the artist attempts to do with Post Pop Depression is to examine, musically, the malady that even has him hanging on the verge of disenchantment with the life he loves. Pop’s sudden world-weariness on this record becomes even more alarming when one considers the tribulations of the man himself, and the recognition that what is on the brink of finally deflating his survivor’s spirit, what is coaxing him to flee to some figurative Paraguay where “people are still human beings, where they have spirit” is far from the more physically scarring traumas of his past. Rejection, addiction, and the goading specter of failure are nothing compared to this invisible malady of the present-day – intangible yet poisonous, vacuous and deadly to the human spirit, and by far, the greatest foe to Iggy Pop’s own spirit as well.
This inquiry begins immediately as the record opens. What initially seems like a doting love song in the form of Break Into Your Heart instead reveals itself to be a burdened appeal by Pop to find depth in a fellow human soul. As opposed to a lover who might try to find their way into somebody’s heart, Pop here claims that he wants to “break into” one, to infiltrate the inaccessible. Because of this, it becomes clear that he isn’t so much scavenging for mutual affection, but for any feeling at all, wishing to simply peer into this person’s heart just to see where they “begin,” not certain whether they ever do begin or not. What is sought throughout this track is some substance in another person, some sort of defining trait, something through which he can understand this other person.
This, in fact, is what leads him and the album to rumination over Gardenia. The track, once more cloaked in a love-song guise, marks another instance of Pop’s isolating disillusionment with life. As he thinks wistfully of this Gardenia, it becomes all the more clear that this dynamic “goddess,” this creature of spirit, is a mere apparition. He cannot find her anymore, or, more appropriately, he can no longer find her as she was. Now, instead of “wearing the finest gown” as he is used to seeing her donning, she is in ruins, her present-day solace being the mere fact that she is being gawked at by strangers from the window of a “cheapo motel.” Otherwise, she is overcome by “poverty’ and “misery,” the lively goddess now left alone to pay for her unknown and unidentified mistakes, another one of the spirited few now devastated by a world that has closed itself off to to dynamism and a forthright love for life.
This new, strange terrain that Pop is walking through in Post Pop Depression is a place where hearts are locked and skins stitched tight. Iggy Pop, disheartened and cast aside, made to feel like an alien in his own world, contemplates in American Valhalla that maybe his time has come, that, perhaps, he has outlived his use, his spirit no longer merely on the verge of breaking, but already cracking bit by bit, its possessor left with nothing now but his name. Here, he is prepared to concede defeat, prepared to perish as a hero rather than fall further into disgrace and lose even his name. But then swiftly enough comes the regret over having going down such a path: “An ocean of bodies, and then there’s me; and I hope I’m not losing my life tonight,” he sings on In The Lobby, his spirit fighting back once more, relentless in its efforts to stay active and keep alive, in its wide-eyed optimism that there is another way indeed, and compelling him to instead understand the predicament he is in, together with the world that has cast him out so decisively, rather than to follow his shadow “out of the light.”
What follows from this is Sunday, one of the most complete and penetrating tracks that Pop has ever written. A tormenting portrait of contemporary life, masquerading brilliantly as a boisterous rock song all while its subject suffers, the song sees its everyman narrator admit that his emotional state is worsening, even though he owns a sturdy house and a pleasant-enough job. And yet, even though he knows that he is slowly sinking, he opts not to change his ways, because he trusts that by the time that Sunday rolls around, he will be magically restored to health. That is the day where he can forget his problems, untangle his dreams, and do what he wants to do without any concern for the outside world and social mores and manners. To live one day a week is enough for him, and and so long as the rest of the days roll on towards some Sunday, he will be able to keep steady, maintain his eggshell composure, and quash the inevitable spirit inside him that prods him towards the idea of making every day a Sunday.
This routinized, mechanized structure is what is devastating the narrator’s sense of self, and yet, it is also what keeps the Sunday Man going. Without that routine, he will not have all that he is told he needs: The slick home, the corporate street, the suitable job, the child – Iggy even includes “pride” among that list. And yet these prerequisites to a good life are also exactly the things that are eating his spirit whole. “Got all I need and it is killing me,” he finally sings, accompanied, gradually, by a chorus of others voices, marked by a smiling kind of melancholy in the harmony.
And Pop, ever the honest provocateur adds to the end of that sentence the two simple words, “And you.” By doing so, he turns his pointed finger outwards to his listeners as well, brazenly daring them to judge for themselves whether they, too, are among the Sunday Man’s melancholy choir.
This mood is complemented by the rapturous instrumentation of the song, which is at complete musical odds with its much less cheery lyrical content – personifying, sonically, the conflicting temperament of the subject of the song, his spirit-depraved interior privately clashing with his materially-pleased exterior until the song, as well as the narrator’s psyche, ultimately bursts with a swell of emotions as a result of this friction, pouring out into the open, and materializing like a beautiful, cathartic waltz. Mournful but purifying, this emotional release at the end of Sunday not only defeats the disguise of collectedness and robustness maintained throughout the song, but also manages to sound more bracingly alive in defeat than it ever did previous to its eruption.
With Sunday, Pop finally comes to understand what has wiped his once-animated surroundings clean of its dynamism – and in a larger sense, what has also made contemporary life into the soulless enterprise that he wishes to either overcome or escape. The question indeed was never how he could break into someone’s heart, but precisely why he couldn’t. And the answer, as epitomized by an ultimate emotional implosion, is that opening-up, giving in to one’s own spirit, or allowing for the perusal of another into one’s clashing interior is too risky for the contemporary kind, with the potential to break up the illusions of modern life – of the desirability of the slick home and corporate street – and along with it, the illusions people maintain about themselves just so they can carry on with that idyllic exterior life.
Such a realization thus sends Pop into a long meditation over alternatives to this regimented livelihood, with German Days plunging him deep into nostalgic longing and reminding him that there indeed other places in which he could “germinate;” While Chocolate Drops, in turn, soothes him that it is neither the time to die nor cry. “There is nothing in the dark,” it calls back to In the Lobby, wooing him to “fly” instead, to move onwards and to search for stars elsewhere.
And to Iggy Pop, that place, this idyll, that sky charged with brighter stars, is Paraguay – a metaphor, simply, for some mythic place far away, isolated from the world of technology and information, of facts favored over feeling, of outrage and criticism favored over thought, of life upturned by perpetual unease.
However, Iggy is not to leave quietly with his head hung low. Palpable anger bursts forth in Paraguay. This is because Pop doesn’t necessarily wish to leave for that far-off land. He is merely doing so, because he has been left with no other choice, because he has to stay away from the ills of the modern, material world, to stray from the constant fear it wrought upon him and everybody else – to simply heal from all the anxiety and discontent. Paraguay’s fury comes from the realization that what has prompted Pop’s desire to flee could have been avoided entirely – that knowledge and information, that this regimented lifestyle meant to keep everyone contented and safe, could have had its place alongside passion and spiritedness. Why, after all, should spiritedness be looked upon as something to be frightened of, something that must be locked or otherwise broken into, something to be quashed in favor of caution, inoffensiveness, or mere fear of it pouring out into the open?
As the last man of his era, however – the one who kept on surviving even as all his peers fell – Iggy Pop also recognizes the futility of standing atop a hill, alone, and sermonizing to an age that aspires to transiency and artificial charms, whose art no longer aims for cerebral or the visceral, but merely the aesthetic or the experimental, whose politics is more concerned with striking fear into the hearts of those who innocently express themselves rather than to bring justice to those who perpetuate any real harm, a period too afraid of itself to pay proper heed to its own self and too proud of itself to heed to the words of other, much wiser personages, no matter how sweetly they might croon those words of wisdom or how fiercely they might bellow them from the top of their lungs.
For this reason, Post Pop Depression exists, perhaps, as the final act of insurgence of this life-long rebel towards some human cause, another desperately hopeless attempt to arouse in others the urge to reclaim their authentic selves, to confront their fears, to express not only their best, but also their worst of selves, and to keep open their hearts rather than to lock them shut – to do, then, as Iggy Pop has done all his life, and to live as though it is the naturally wild and cluttered side of life itself that matters, and not the facts and weekend days introduced to tidy up that mess.
Yet, instead of letting the indifference that he sings about throughout Post Pop Depression conquer and compromise his spirit too, he opts for redemption elsewhere, realizing, furiously, that the so-called Valhalla isn’t to be found in his own native land, but is, in fact, anywhere but there, be it an empty beach or some Paraguay far away. So long as he carries on by strength of his spirit alone, there will always be a place for him somewhere, even if it is no longer the home that finally managed to goad its last, most stalwart living spirit to take to flight as well.
Post Pop Depression finds its artist desperately searching for meaning in the modern world, only to realize at the very end of this profound musical self-exploration that it is, perhaps, wiser to search for solace elsewhere. It is not him who is waning in the modern age; it is the eager, curious, and lively spirit of his time now-passed that is.