Every Loser

Iggy Pop

Gold Tooth Music / Atlantic Records, 2023


REVIEW BY: John Mulhouse


Iggy Pop turned 76 years old this past April and celebrated by playing a short series of West Coast shows with a set list featuring songs off his latest album, Every Loser. In a world of unprecedented and unexpected events, you can perhaps add Iggy leaping around the stage as he passes the three-quarter-century mark with Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses and Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers providing the rhythm section. But at least here we have a GOOD unprecedented event.

And Every Loser is a good record. It’s actually better than good, despite some initial misgivings. The pre-release single, “Frenzy,” had me a little worried. For the last few… well, decades, Iggy has bounced back and forth between classy, carefully-crafted albums that often stretch his boundaries, such as 1999’s Avenue B, which included songs with Medeski, Martin, and Wood, 2016’s elegant, Josh Homme-led Post Pop Depression, and even his previous record, the jazz-inflected Free, and more blustery hard rock efforts that sometimes don’t quite deliver lyrically either. Take 1995’s Naughty Little Doggie or 2001’s Beat Em Up, for example. And while Duff has more than established his credentials, I am wary of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, whose Josh Klinghoffer plays on many of the songs here. Not to mention that the drummer for Blink 182 makes an appearance and you’ll also find Dave Navarro and Stone Gossard because… everybody wants to hang with Iggy.

So “Frenzy,” with its bombast and facile lyrics, felt like Iggy was perhaps trying to again prove something that didn’t need to be proven. No one doubts he can still rock with the absolute best. It’s also the lead-off song on the album, so it was, therefore, a nice surprise when the second song, “Strung Out Johnny,” turned out to be a reflective, mid-tempo ballad about the descent into heroin addiction, Iggy’s weathered baritone singing beautifully from hard experience.

Things continue at mid-tempo for “New Atlantis,” a propulsive, cracked love letter to Miami, Iggy’s home for many years. The lyrics also reference our worsening environmental crisis in language that is all the more striking for its simplicity: “Some say the world will end in fire; some say ice; me, I just see fewer birds, fish, and butterflies; plenty of concrete, though…” my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Modern Day Rip-Off” dips back into the bombast and easy rhymes, but is followed up with my favorite song on the record, the wistful “Morning Show.” “I’ll fix my face and go; time to do the morning show,” sings Iggy with real sadness, a snapshot of what it takes to keep doing your job with a smile when everything else is falling apart. The pace is suitably languid and, I have to say, the instrumentation on this record, which frequently includes piano and keyboards, is sympathetic throughout, with Andrew Watt’s production (mostly) leaving plenty of space to breathe, as well. Watt also co-wrote the album with the other musicians lending a hand here and there.

The sub-minute-long “The News For Andy” is almost just what the title says, picking up on a Stooges-era suggestion from Andy Warhol that someone should record a song that’s just the reading of the news. In this case, however, Iggy is reading modern advertisements offering modern forms of “help.” Perhaps that’s no coincidence when it’s become largely impossible to tell the two things apart. 

“Neo Punk” features Travis Barker of the aforementioned Blink 182 on drums and is again in the unsubtle category. But in this case, Iggy’s chuckle and howl of glee at the end of the rampage make it impossible to be cynical. He was clearly enjoying pushing everything up against the wall, and you can’t fault a guy for that.

But things quickly come back to earth for “All The Way Down,” a funky Lust For Life or New Values-style rocker with a bit of nice crooning. Again, the lyrics offer compelling commentary on our times from someone who has seen a lot of “Life that smells like death.”

Speaking of commentary, “Comments” is another funky, ’70s-type track, starting with a bit of a slow burn and referencing the bane of every artist—perhaps every person—in the internet age: “Looking at those comments all night; wondering if the comments are right.”

“My Animus Interlude” offers another brief spoken bit with Iggy conjuring an air of defiance before the truly defiant final song, “The Regency.” I have no idea if he’s referencing a hotel or something larger and more abstract. Perhaps it’s both. But whatever it is, it’s an angry end to a record that is not going gentle into that good night. The song also features Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters on drums in what may be one of his last recorded performances.

Iggy’s artwork has sometimes been questionable, as well (again, see Beat Em Up), but Every Loser has the legendary Raymond Pettibon at the canvas, providing a painting whose meaning is entirely up for interpretation yet somehow unsettling, as is typical. He’s also written the song titles and contributed some extra pieces while Iggy has scratched out the lyrics and somewhat humorously “collaborated” with Pettibon in a couple places. It all makes for a nice visual package.

So, hey, as I said at the start, this is a damn good record. While not as of-a-piece as Post Pop Depression, my favorite of Iggy’s recent outings, I’ve been listening to this quite a bit. After some wilderness years, Iggy has seen his icon status firmly established in a way not unlike, say, Johnny Cash. Iggy is at his best when he doesn’t bother to replicate past glories or try to prove anything, and he does that more often than not with Every Loser. Anyone that’s listened to his excellent radio show on BBC Radio 6 knows his passion and curiosity for music and the world in general remains fully intact, and you can feel that in this album. We better continue to appreciate him in the here and now because, as Iggy sings himself in “Comments,” “The problem with life is that it stops.”

Rating: B+

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© 2023 John Mulhouse and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Gold Tooth Music / Atlantic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.