Iggy Pop has always relied upon the kindness of strangers. Take “Every Loser,” the garage-punk avatar’s new album with mega-watt producer and multi-instrumentalist turned label magnate Andrew Watt, Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith.
Like Pop’s seminal work with producer and co-composer David Bowie (“The Idiot,” “Lust for Life,” “Blah-Blah-Blah”), the Chris Stein-produced “Zombie Birdhouse” and his Josh Homme collab “Post Pop Depression,” Iggy’s frank, fresh solo album bristles with wild-eyed energy and new (old) ideas. It’s got the sort of zealotry and funk that Pop could only have gotten from fellow artists who worship the Ig, and who seek only to forward his agenda of witty, libidinal lyrics and mood-swing croons and cackles. (How libidinal? The first feral phrase we hear on “Every Loser” is “Got a dick and two balls, that’s more than you all.” Classic Iggy.)
Watt (2021’s Grammy winner for producer of the year for work with Ozzy Osbourne, Miley Cyrus, Dua Lipa and Post Malone) knows how to get between rock and its hardest places and give it all his usual rhythmic heft and shiny swagger. By debuting his Gold Tooth label venture through Atlantic with Pop and punching up “Every Loser” with youthful effusion, everyone’s a winner. Watt gets punk cred. And Iggy gets new playmates (including Travis Barker and Taylor Hawkins), a much-needed, au courant alt-rock shine beyond his Ken Nordine-like word jazz excursions, and taut, toughened melodies through which to work his lizardy charms.
“The world’s most forgotten boy,” now a grizzled, tawny 75-year-old, just got some of his Detroit teen-hood returned to him, the raw power that made the Stooges roar with manic intensity – an 11 songs-in-36-minutes level of intensity.
Save for a few woozily ambient, spoken-word blips, “Every Loser” goes from metallic harangues such as “Frenzy” — with Iggy singing at his juvenile-delinquent finest, backed by a bevy of boyish harmony vocalists — to riff-heavy, mid-tempo rockers like “Strung Out Johnny,” where Pop’s ground-swelling baritone warble makes its gravitas known.
Co-writing with Watt brought out the curt melodicist in Pop while allowing his usual role of dramatist to shine through in what winds up as a succinct critique of media culture. The slowly undulating “Morning Show” finds a private Iggy carefully applying a public face in Garbo-meets-Gaga fashion. On “Comments,” Pop jokes about selling out to Hollywood, and how going to outer space is no better than staying on the dirty earth, before grousing about find a soulmate in the comments section. During the raging ruckus of “Neo Punk,” he nyah-nyahs the younger generation of musicians who’ve aped his every move, baiting them with lines such as “Emotionally I’m a celebrity / I don’t have to sing, I’ve got publishing.”
Tease the young-uns he might, but Iggy Pop loves his collaborators. The vocalist leans his every arch, icy and spiteful lyric reading into co-writer Watt’s grinding guitars and chunky bass lines. The revved-up rhythm core of McKagan and Smith and guest drummers like Travis Barker – along with featured friends such as Jane’s Addiction’s Dave Navarro and Eric Avery – makes for a fast-flying hurricane with Iggy as its eye. But leave it to the late Taylor Hawkins to provide the stormiest of climaxes to Pop’s anti-establishment screed, “The Regency.”
Moving from breezy, pensive ballad to manic, sand-blasting morass to something loping and soulful, “The Regency” has the metallic messiness and rhythmic might of the Stooges’ winding, avant-jazzy “Funhouse” from 1970, but with Hawkins driving the car. But don’t confuse Iggy’s rant or its wild musicality as a return to Stooges-like raucousness and institutional declamation for nostalgia.
Here, a primal-screaming Iggy sees nose jobs, con jobs and feels his throat gagging before his “Regency” regal chorus cuts close to the bone with self-deprecating glee and a take-down or two:
“Once I was a nobody / I didn’t stay too long /Likе a dog or cattle bird, I sang a lusty song / Fuck the regency, fuck the regency, fuck the regency up.”
With all that, you still can’t call “Every Loser” a comeback. Iggy Pop never ever went away, even when he sang Francophile jazz licks on “Apres’,” electronic dub with Underground, Hammond B3-based blues with Dr. Lonnie Smith, and Leonard Cohen songs on the Blue Note label’s “You Want It Darker” tribute – all within the last 10 years. “Every Loser” is just Iggy Pop to the max — lewder, cruder and louder than love, but filled with his usual lust for life.