It was barely a week into 2023 (January 6th) and Iggy Pop released the first great record of the year, Every Loser. I knew the album was coming out but it still snuck up on me. Of course I’ve been in a bit of reflective funk of late brought on by the end of the year. Naturally we looked back over the past year when we did our 2022 “best of” list. And then we kicked off the year by looking way back (50 years) with a playlist based on the great music of 1973, which included “Search And Destroy” from Iggy’s first group, the Stooges. It seems I’ve come full circle in the span of a week and a half… If there’s anything that can pull me out of the backward-facing revelry that permeated the end of last year and the beginning of this year and force me to look forward it’s great rock n roll by the icon, Iggy Pop.
I’ve been looking forward to this album since Iggy dropped the first single “Frenzy” last October. I’d like to tell you I’ve been an Iggy fan since the 70s, refusing to wear a shirt in 3rd grade while bouncing around in my desk singing “Lust For Life” at the top of my lungs… “Eat it, Mrs. Peters.” But alas, that’s not the case. Even in my rebellious teen years I didn’t get into Iggy. You never heard him on the radio and you dig what you hear. It wasn’t until Iggy collaborated with Josh Homme on Iggy’s 2016 album Post Pop Depression that I jumped on the bandwagon. I had only recently gotten into the Queens of the Stone Age, Homme’s band, and when I heard he was producing Iggy’s latest LP I gave it a spin. Something clicked for me and it sent me crashing through Iggy’s back catalog like it was lunch and I missed breakfast.
If you’re talking about Iggy Pop you can’t start without first listening to the three landmark LPs he did with the Stooges which really set the pallet for punk rock – The Stooges (1969), Fun House (1970), and Raw Power (1973). Even though Raw Power was produced by David Bowie it didn’t get a lot of airplay. With Iggy’s solo career you have to start with his first two records, also produced by David Bowie, The Idiot and Lust For Life. I absolutely love those albums. But even though I have become a big fan of Iggy’s I have to admit, his career after those first two LPs has been… inconsistent. There have been great albums, New Values or Brick By Brick but there have been long stretches where he released less than stellar LPs. That said, I have been very impressed with almost everything Iggy has done since Skull Ring in 2003.
His last three LPs (if you include this one) have been really strong. To think that he can still surprise and show this much vitality this far into his career is amazing. I’m not sure he’s put together a hot streak like he’s done lately since he left the Stooges. I really liked Post Pop Depression, as mentioned. Although it felt almost like a farewell. Then he turned around and surprised me with Free. I’ll admit that Free was a bit of a detour from a sonic perspective – there were horns instead of guitar, a very jazzy affair – but there was a lot to like, especially the track “James Bond.” It wasn’t a perfect album – there were a few too many spoken word pieces for me – but it was atmospheric and interesting. But again, it sounded like Iggy saying good bye.
Which makes Every Loser that much more surprising. It’s full of harder edged, punk rock songs. There are still some atmospheric moments but again, Iggy’s power and vitality are on full display here. Pop brings all the pissy, irreverent attitude you would hope for from him. It certainly helps that the album was produced by my current favorite producer Andrew Watt. Watt also plays guitar, keyboards, bass guitar and probably “the kitchen sink.” Watt has recently produced a hard rock/heavy metal album with Ozzy’s Patient Number 9, a pretty straight up classic rock album with Eddie Vedder’s Earthling and now he’s going for punk rock with Iggy. What can’t Watt do? It doesn’t hurt that Watt has a collection of musicians, almost like a house band at a bar, that he uses for all these records. It’s a who’s who: Chad Smith (drummer from the RHCP), Duff McKagan (bass guitar from GnR), and Josh Klinghoffer (former guitarist for the RHCP). He augmented that crew on this album with members of Jane’s Addiction – Dave Navarro (guitar), Chris Chaney (bass), and Eric Avery (also bass). Stone Gossard, guitarist for Pearl Jam pops up as does drummer Travis Barker. The late Taylor Hawkins drums on “Comments” and helped co-write “The Regency.”
Having all of that talent really brings out the best in Pop here. Or should I say, brings out the rock in Pop. While I read somewhere that Iggy’s goal was to “beat the shit out of you musically” this album’s lyrics are much more thoughtful than you might expect. That said, there is plenty of vulgarity which goes down pretty fucking well around B&V. And like Free Iggy continues to like his spoken word pieces. There are two interludes here “The News For Andy (Interlude)” (where Iggy reads advertisements) and “My Animus” where he shares well, his animus and both are spoken word.
There are so many great rock songs. “Frenzy” is just balls to the wall rock n roll and reminiscent of the Stooges, but we’ve reviewed that previously. “Modern Day Rip Off” is a frenetic, lurching rocker. Chad Smith’s drumming on that one is volcanic and the guitars snarl. Hearing Iggy sing “I’m guilty as sin, but I know how to win, I don’t know how to cry, I don’t know how to die,” makes you believe it. At the end of “Neo Punk” you can hear Iggy laughing, he’s clearly having fun. It’s short, hard, fast and dark. He sings, “I get fucked up so I don’t kill myself.” Sadly, I’ve been there. If you’re struggling reach out to somebody. “Neo Punk” is the classic meet me at the finish line rocker. If you’ve come to, well, have the shit beat out of you musically, you will be satisfied by these tunes alone.
There is so much more here to like. “Strung Out Johnny” is an amazing song about addiction and I added it immediately upon hearing it to our playlist about heroin. Watt plays some keyboards on this track which makes the tune, they’re the perfect accent for this midtempo song. “You’re strung out Johnny and now it’s time to pay.” “New Atlantis” is Iggy’s love letter to Miami. Atlantis was the mythical Greek city that sank into the sea. Miami is a mythical party city that’s about to sink into the sea. It starts with a spoken word intro which lays out Iggy’s love of his hometown. I didn’t see a climate change anthem from Iggy coming but I dig it. Iggy croons and Watt plays a fabulous guitar solo. It’s a great tune. “All The Way Down” features Stone Gossard from Pearl Jam on guitar and it’s my favorite tune here. The song is melodic and unhinged at the same time. As Iggy wails “When I’m down, when I’m down” over and over you think the song is going to fall apart, but thankfully it doesn’t. “Comments” is wonderful commentary on our internet/social media society. “I’m looking for a soulmate in the comments…” Taylor Hawkins drumming propels the tune.
“Morning Show” is the sole ballad here. It’s got some acoustic guitar accents that I like. It’s about an old star pulling himself together despite the pain to go and do…well, the morning show. “The Regency” ends the album and as the longest tune on the record it feels like the big statement song. It’s basically Iggy battling the powers that be. It’s a battle cry against the phony status quo. It’s a fine place to end the record and another really strong track.
At this stage in the game I had no idea that Iggy Pop could still blow me away. He’s one of our most vital, important artists and I’m so glad that he’s going through this late career renaissance. Every Loser is yet another great, late-career album from an artist who should get even more attention. If you don’t believe me trust Anthony Bourdain, he loved the guy. Iggy is a true rock n roll icon and albums like this are why.