Album Reviews

Iggy Pop – Every Loser

(Atlantic/Gold Tooth) UK release date: 6 January 2023

This short, sharp blast of refreshing energy finds James Newell Osterberg Jr as compelling as ever

Iggy Pop - Every Loser You could be forgiven for thinking that Iggy Pop had decided to settle into his role as ‘respected elder statesman of rock’. These days, at the age of 75, he’s a respected broadcaster on BBC 6Music, and his recent albums have been more relaxed than raucous. Indeed, on 2019’s Free, there was an unexpected focus on poetry recitals, albeit poems written by Lou Reed.

Every Loser sees Pop’s fire return though. It’s a snarly, noisy punk album, the type that made his name with The Stooges over 50 years ago. There’s a stellar list of guest stars to accompany Pop on this, his 19th studio album, but the focus is very much on Pop himself. And while it’s never quite going to match his mid-’70s (rather than mid-70s) heyday, it’s a decent reminder of why he’s one of the vital rock stars of our time.

Pop’s backing band on Every Loser is almost a supergroup in itself – Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses, accompanied by sometime Red Hot Chili Peppers Chad Smith and Josh Kinghoffer. With a pedigree like that, it’s no surprise that opening track Frenzy is as its title suggests – loud, frantic and very sweary, with Pop calling out “fucking pricks”, “goddamn dicks” and “stone douchebags” in the chorus alone. There aren’t many septuagenarians who could make such rage feel authentic, but Pop manages it effortlessly.

The ghost of The Stooges is also recalled on the frenetic Modern Day Ripoff, in which Iggy bemoans the disadvantages of ageing – “I ran out of blow a long time ago, I can’t smoke a J or my guts fly away”, while Comments, although slightly more downtempo, also looks mortality in the face and blows a huge raspberry. “The problem with life is that it stops,” runs one line, given added poignancy by the fact that it’s one of two tracks that Foo Fighters‘ late Taylor Hawkins makes an appearance on.

Hawkins is also present on closing track The Regency, a classic Iggy squall of a garage punk track featuring a repeated chorus of “Fuck the Regency up!”. But Every Loser also has a few more reflective moments. Strung Out Johnny is a rather grandiose synth-pop song telling the (presumably autobiographical) tale of a junkie rock star in over his head: “third time, you can’t get enough, and your life gets all fucked up”. It’s more low-key than a lot of the tracks on the album, but it has a shimmering, synthy majesty all of its own.

New Atlantis is also a bit of a curveball, featuring Pop’s deep, lugubrious spoken word vocals paying tribute to his adopted home of Miami, threatened by rising tides and climate change, while Neo Punk is another back to basics, 100mph sprint in just two and a half minutes. Throughout the record, producer Andrew Watt proves himself the perfect foil to Pop – not what you may expect from a man who counts Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus amongst his previous collaborators.

At just 36 minutes, Every Loser never outstays its welcome – instead, it’s a short, sharp blast of energy that sounds impossibly refreshing. At an age where most of his contemporaries have either died, retired or are cashing in on a nostalgia boom, James Newell Osterberg Jr remains as compelling as ever.

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