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Dan MacIntosh Film Review: ‘American Valhalla’ Captures Respect, Friendship Between Iggy Pop and Josh Homme

Review By DAN MACINTOSH

American Valhalla documents Josh Homme’s dream collaboration with Iggy Pop, an artist he’s admired since he was a Coachella Valley teen skateboarding to the Repo Man soundtrack bumping on his boombox. The album’s title, Post Pop Depression, succinctly summarizes Homme’s emotional letdown upon completing this critically acclaimed project. This entertaining and informative film takes viewers from the recording’s inception, which included written and texted correspondence between Homme and Pop, to its touring band’s triumphant next-to-last concert at England’s Royal Albert Hall.

Don’t ‘Out-Rock’ Iggy Pop

Homme admits, during one of the film’s many interview segments, he didn’t want to try and ‘out rock’ Iggy Pop. That would be pointless. Pop’s pre-punk efforts set the gold standard for hard rock, so why even attempt to reach or surpass such daunting heights? And Pop, for his part, was ready to create an album markedly different from his relatively recent recordings with his pioneering Detroit band, The Stooges. Homme assembled a sparse band, which also included Queens of the Stone Age/The Dead Weather guitarist Dean Fertita and Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders. Tracked at Homme’s far-away-from-civilization Joshua Tree studio, Post Pop Depression matches inventively moody instrumental textures with some of Pop’s best-ever lyrics.

Andreas Neumann, Josh Homme and Steve Jones at ‘American Valhalla’ LA screening – Photo by Donna Balancia

Iggy Pop: ‘I Take A Lot of Work’

Pop is the star of nearly every film he’s in. He may dance like a drug-crazed shaman while performing live, but when he’s kicking back on his Miami hammock answering interview questions, he’s one wittily articulate beast. He can also be disarmingly candid, though. During one of these moments, he admits that – even at the advanced age of 68 – he still needs to hustle for a living. “I take a lot of work,” he tells the camera.

Homme can’t help but play fanboy to Pop’s relaxed star power. He’s not alone, though, as all his project bandmates confess to this same nervousness in Pop’s iconic presence. Nevertheless, the film documents how all these professionals don’t let hero worship ever get the best of them.

Pivotal Moments

There are two emotionally pivotal moments in the film. One sad, the other happy. The somber scene finds Homme and Pop discussing their mutual decision to tour behind Post Pop Depression. The night before their first rehearsal, though, Pop’s dear friend and celebrated collaborator, David Bowie, passed away. Pop can be seen on screen starting to breakdown while talking about Bowie’s death. Pop somehow summoned the strength to man-up and go through with this rehearsal, which – according to all concerned — turned out to be some powerfully successful tour preparation.

Royal Albert Hall

On a happier note, Pop’s performance at the Royal Albert Hall found Pop on the receiving end of long overdue love and respect. During a post-screening Q&A featuring director Andreas Neumann and Homme, and moderated by Steve Jones, Josh recalled how even the “cool people” at that show told him it was one of the best concerts they’d ever seen.

As an Iggy Pop documentary, American Valhalla gives only an overview of Pop’s career. If you’re looking for an in-depth study of Pop’s eventful life, Jim Jarmusch’s Gimme Danger is your best source. Homme repeatedly reminds us about the importance of treasuring life’s greatest moments, though, and this film does a fine job capturing one musical collaboration Homme will never forget.

 

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