This 2017 movie is about the creation, production, and touring of Iggy Pop’s Post Pop Depression record. Co-directed by Joshua Homme (Queens Of The Stone Age) and photographer Andreas Newman, this is one amazing, astounding music film. The people at Castle Rock entertainment authorized a free live stream during the pandemic and I wouldn’t miss this for anything.
If you’re a musician, the opening scenes of this movie tell you everything you need to know. The Post Pop Depression band is onstage, vamping through the changes in the intro to ‘Lust For Life.’ The band features Matt Helders (Arctic Monkeys) on drums, Matt Sweeney (Chavez) on bass and guitar, as well as QOTSA members Dean Fertita and Troy Van Leeuwen on guitars and bass with Joshua Homme as bandleader on guitar. Now they’re not quite the Sales brothers (Tony and Hunt, on bass and drums on the original Lust For Life), but they have matching suits and they do a great job with the meaty material. Then Iggy pops up from between some amps, and it’s on. The way these battle hardened rock vets look at each other while Iggy does his thing is tremendous. They all have shit-eating smiles, like little boys who just shoplifted something naughty. They look at each other, and those grins say: “We’re playing with...Iggy!”
I saw these looks when this band was on Austin City Limits, and also on a completely different band, backing Iggy in Athens, Georgia in the early 80’s. His backing band then were basically all the members of Blondie (except Chris Stein and Debbie), and they had those grins the whole night! Imagine playing with your greatest idol, as these bands were fortunate enough to do.
Anyways, for a movie about Iggy and Joshua, American Valhalla is surprisingly beautiful and contemplative. I was stopped in my tracks early on to see and hear the late Anthony Bourdain conducting many of the interviews, he being among Joshua and Iggy in my own pantheon of rock heroes. The story starts with Iggy at his home in Miami, needing to make a new record, thinking of his legacy, and ultimately approaching Joshua Homme about a collaboration. Joshua agrees as it turns out his lifelong dream has always been to work with Iggy. While he’s on tour with Queens, Iggy sends him a package of handwritten notes, reviews, poems, and ideas to review. Gears begin to turn.
They start the project at Rancho De Luna in Joshua Tree, California, a recording-studio slash retreat in the middle of the desert. It’s so beautiful there and the band, Iggy, Josh, Matt, and Dean work with owner/engineer/chef Hutch Hutchinson, living and eating together and forming a formidable unit. The songs come together quickly. The photography of the desert segments is especially stunning. They move back to Los Angeles and Joshua Homme’s Pink Duck studio to finish; it goes quickly and the project is over. Homme is overtaken by literal Post Pop Depression.
Luckily, they have convinced Iggy to tour. Homme adds Van Leeuwen and Sweeney to the band and they work up the new songs, and a number from the Idiot/Lust For Life era records Iggy made in Berlin with David Bowie and the Sales brothers. On the morning Iggy has a 4 am flight to Los Angeles to begin rehearsals, they learn of David Bowie’s passing. The band and Iggy soldier on, and they have a transcendental first rehearsal.
The movie ends with fine footage of the tour and shows,highlights being Detroit, Berlin, and The Royal Albert Hall in London. It’s a testament to the power and influence of Iggy Pop, and the genius of Joshua Homme. Joshua realizes he’ll never get a chance like this again, and he tries to enjoy it as it is slipping away.
I haven’t seen a better movie about the artistic process, about people who care about what they are doing, musicians having the back of a legend who continues to surprise them. I cannot recommend American Valhalla enough; as Anthony Bourdain would say…”This is the good stuff.”
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