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Every Loser refocuses Iggy Pop's career with an undeniable consistency

"Every Loser"

Release date: 06 January 2023
8/10
Iggy Pop Every Loser Art
05 January 2023, 00:00 Written by Ross Horton
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Millions of words have been written about Iggy Pop's career, and his lasting influence on modern music.

Across the first three Stooges albums and his first two solo LPs, the man born James Newell Osterberg Jr. invented and pioneered large parts of what we now would consider the Rock Canon. Most notably, he also redefined what an iconic rock 'n' roll singer looks like, and especially how they can act in front of an audience. Despite facing immense criticism for his behaviour on and off stage, his allure has never really faded, even when his creative output did.

Most of the praise directed at Iggy's career is reserved for his first ten years in the business – and what a decade it was – but he's been one of rock's great survivors.

Since his halcyon days, some of his efforts have been brilliant (1979's New Values, 1986's Blah-Blah-Blah, 2016's Post Pop Depression); some have been interesting genre experiments (1982's Zombie Birdhouse, 2012's Après); some have been drastically underrated (2009's Preliminaires, 1993's American Caesar); and some have definitely been regrettable (2003's Skull Ring, 2007's Stooges reunion The Weirdness).

So why this album, and why now, when he doesn't need to lift another finger or utter another note? The answer seems to be in the choice of collaborator, and the prospect of having one more (final?) hit record.

The producer and driving force of Every Loser is Andrew Watt - a 30-something disciple of hard rock with a surprising amount of clout in the music industry – who has spent the last few years digging Ozzy Osbourne out of his creative slump.

Every Loser is his second attempt at consolidating a rock legend's career, and he's not taking any risks: Watt has essentially repeated the same process and followed the same steps that worked so well with Ozzy.

Like Rick Rubin's approach, Watt has a simple and reliable system. Firstly, he gives all of the songs on Every Loser a glistening pop rock sheen that perhaps other producers might have tried to avoid with heritage rock acts. Secondly, the music is handled by his all-star house band - Duff McKagan, Chad Smith, Chris Chaney and the late Taylor Hawkins all feature here (as they did on the Ozzy records) – with some other celebrity names joining in along the way.

This approach is risky, and can have serious drawbacks.

As with the Ozzy albums, the main problem with Watt's production style is that the music is a little overcooked and a little too safe for an Iggy Pop record. He's obviously a fan of the players he's assembled, which means he lets Duff McKagan's bass be a little intrusive throughout, and he lets Chad Smith and the other celebrity drummers essentially phone in fairly standard contributions. There's nothing here that gets close to the musical performances on, say, Lust for Life. What's worse is that Watt's own guitar work is a little generic throughout, to accommodate Iggy and his band (a problem he solved by having guest guitarists on Ozzy's most recent album).

Simply put, these songs would have sounded just as good with standard session musicians, or perhaps even better with Iggy's own current touring outfit, which makes the presence of the big names a distraction.

Minor gripes aside, the album has an undeniable consistency, and despite the variety of moods and textures on display here, the focus throughout is on Iggy's voice and lyrics.

"Strung Out Johnny" is the best thing here: it's a cautionary tale about the devastating effects of heroin, set to a haunting Siouxsie & the Banshees musical backdrop, that amounts to one of the best things Iggy's done in 35 years. If Watt needed something for the highlight reel, this is it.

There's also real retro charm to "Comments", too. Despite its hammy lyrical content, it's light and supple in execution, not a million miles away from New Order or The Mission. Between "Strung Out Johnny", "Comments", and genuine gem "New Atlantis", we get a glimpse into an alternate universe where Iggy had pursued the pop sound of Blah-Blah-Blah instead of turning resorting to clunky rawk nonsense on 1988's Instinct.

Speaking of rawk, "Frenzy" aims for Stooges firepower but ends up sounding like a caricature of Velvet Revolver. There is, however, a memorable hook amongst all the questionable lyrics and starchy riffage. It's certainly one of the braver things he's done in recent years, and many fans will come away from Every Loser using it as evidence of Iggy's 'return to form'.

There are points where the album doesn't quite work, as on the sub-Sum 41 snoozer "Neo Punk" (a harrowing reminder of the Skull Ring album), or the toothless "Modern Day Rip Off", but these are the songs that seem custom-made for a sports montage, a WWE promo package or a video game. They sound like a fortune in licensing royalties. They sound clear, considered, uncluttered - a world away from the kind of music Ig plays on his BBC6 Music show, Iggy Confidential.

Thankfully these misfires are cancelled out by winners like "All the Way Down" (which Billy Idol would have killed for in the mid-80s), and the genuinely thrilling album closer "The Regency". As mentioned earlier, "New Atlantis" is a highlight, as are the more contemplative moments (the two wonderful interludes, the charming "Morning Show").

All things considered, there are far more winners than losers here, and that's nothing if not a pleasant surprise.

Where Iggy goes from here is a mystery, because his motor never seems to stop running, and he always seems to have an eye on what's next. Andrew Watt should be pushing for this collaboration to continue for as long as possible, because power moves like this will only increase his standing as one of the most dependable producers in modern rock.

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