Iggy Pop’s Enduring Punk: “Every Loser”

Iggy Pop 2017 Courtesy of Getty Images

Years ago, the song “My Generation” by The Who included the classic line “… hope I die before I get old.” No one ever told Iggy Pop, because at 75 years old he’s still cranking out music that speaks to everyone, including his latest release, Every Loser.

For those few who don’t know of him, the senior Pop (whose real name is James Newell Osterberg Jr.) is known as the “Godfather of Punk” through his early work in The Stooges (1968-1974).  Over his remarkably long and successful career, he has delivered now 19 studio albums of both punk and pop-inspired work. Albums such as Post Pop Depression (2016) and Free (2019) kept reminding people that he was still around and capable.

In 2010, Iggy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with The Stooges. In 2017, the French government awarded him the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, joining the ranks of such celebrated artists as Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, and Bono. And in January 2020 he received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.  It is even said that he invented the fine art of stage diving. What if I told you that Nine Inch Nails, Joy Division, and Depeche Mode all publicly admit that Iggy Pop’s work on his album The Idiot was a major influence?  He even has a BBC radio show where he plays “the classics” and throws support behind up-and-coming punk bands. All in all, Iggy Pop has been a source of inspiration and entertainment for nearly a quarter century.

One of the ways his albums have remained fresh is that he often calls in friends to participate. His latest,  Every Loser, is no different as he welcomes Guns N’ Roses bass player “Duff” McKagan, Jane’s Addiction musicians Dave Navarro, Eric Avery, and Chris Chaney, Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard, and drummers Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters) and Travis Barker (Blink-182).  This has manifested an interesting collection of tracks of technically proficient music including “Frenzy”, a Foo Fighters-style hard rock song, “Strung Out Johnny”, which could have been a release by 1980s Psychedelic Furs or Nirvana, and “Modern Day Ripoff”, which is a lament that Iggy’s age prohibits him from younger life habits (drugs, among other things).

There are also changeup songs such as “New Atlantis”, a spoken-intro tribute to his hometown of Miami, in which he gives us a geography lesson, informing us that the city is “south of Alabama and north of Cuba.” “Morning Show” is a quasi-ballad that explains how he routinely (each morning?) must prepare himself for the public by putting on a face that hides his personal troubles and apprehensions.  Imagine a country song about obfuscating your true self that only owes its melancholy and plaintive lyrics to any notion of punk influence.

A noteworthy track is “The News for Andy.”  Years ago, when he was in The Stooges, Iggy Pop used to run in the same circles as Andy Warhol, who at the time suggested writing a song that was simply someone reading the newspaper. On Every Loser, a 55-second contribution is nearly that: Iggy Pop reading advertisements from a newspaper he had nearby, with an accompaniment of bouncy drums, bass, and piano.   The actual backing music sounds like a throwaway Beatles tune, but instead of singing we hear Iggy ask, among other things, “have you been in an auto accident?”

The song “Comments” remarks on social media feedback that tends to be extreme: either “you’re great, Iggy!” or “you suck!”.   How valuable is such feedback when clearly none of it is moderated? Musically, this is one of the best tracks on the album, with catchy synth work and thought-provoking lyrics.

Closing out the album is “The Regency.” Consider The Police-like Andy Summers guitar sound and riff, with lyrics like “I saw a nose job, I saw a con job, I saw a heartthrob.”  This one includes the late Taylor Hawkins on drums, so you should not be surprised to hear meticulous percussion and syncopation, lending a Stewart Copeland feel.

If you’ve ever listened to one of Pop’s albums, you know that he varies his vocals from a low, nearly-spoken growling to more traditional singing.  It’s definitely an acquired taste, especially if you include the two tracks that are simply spoken word.  The inclusion of talented collaborators makes this a decent release.  The album is produced by Andrew Watt, who just won a “Producer of the Year” award for his work with Miley Cyrus and Ed Sheeran. He’s also the guy who directed Post Malone’s releases into something more mainstream, and Watt enjoys helping classic rockers like Eddie Vedder and Ozzy Osbourne deliver successful music.

With Every Loser, it’s clear that Iggy still has a “lust for life.”

-Will Wills

Photo: Iggy Pop (Getty Images)

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Will Wills — a native-born Italian, raised in the US — does a killer impersonation of Mario (“a-letsa-go!”). Generally, you’ll find him frenetically bouncing between software development at a large US firm, leading a local dance/pop band, playing COD and watching MST3K. Yes, he’s sleep deprived, but you can follow his resulting incoherence at @WillrWills or his band at @WillsAndTheWays or his blog, "A Day in a Monkey's Life," if you’re suffering from insomnia, too.

1 comment on “Iggy Pop’s Enduring Punk: “Every Loser”

  1. I’ve been a fan of Iggy since 1979 when I found his Lust For Life LP in a cutout bin. That smiling face really got my attention!

    One thing: I would correct “Iggy Pop has been a source of inspiration and entertainment for nearly a quarter century” to “over half a century,” since he started with the Stooges in 1969 and released his two most influential solo albums in 1977.

    I tell people that Iggy is my spirit animal. His persistence against all odds, and his openness about struggles and human temptations is admirable. He’s lived a life that I don’t envy, but I marvel at.

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