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Iran - Dissolver

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Artist: Iran

Album: Dissolver

Label: Narnack

Review date: Feb. 6, 2009

It shouldn’t come as a real surprise that Dissolver, Iran’s third album and first in six years, fully fleshes out the pop instincts that Aaron Aites’ first two albums obscured. Six years is a long time, people change, and excepting a few brief excursions into noise and feedback, Dissolver sounds like an album made by folks who are mostly sick of challenging convention and just want to swim in something that reminds them of why they love rock music.

On this basic level, the album makes sense. It’s a logical progression for Aites that’s also somewhat necessary: those first two albums don’t hold up as well as I hoped they would. In fact, listening back to Iran and The Moon Boys, it’s the melodic moves of tracks like "Butterfly Knife" that engage, not the ones that traffic in sub-This Heat atmospherics.

On Dissolver, those atmospherics appear uninspired. The one track that approaches Iran’s past levels of discordance, "Digital Clock and Phone,” feels extraneous, maybe even compulsory. With the recent resurgence of Siltbreeze and bands of that ilk, Aites’ former brand of noise-soaked rock songwriting is currently in vogue, and it’s a relief that they avoid falling into that scene’s aimless, derivative traps.

The riches of the new attitude are on full display in "I Already Know You’re Wrong," the album’s best and most relaxed track. On first listen, it’s a straightforward indie-pop ballad that wonderfully cops a "Sloop John B" hook (played by the Mendoza Line’s Peter Hoffman), but the buried synthesizers and reversed sounds gradually reveal themselves to provide a degree of continuity between the old and new Iran. Similar moments of tension pop up throughout, but the overall mood is good-natured and never overly intense.

By adopting this approach, the group unfortunately loses a good chunk of their edginess. I fear that if Iran travel further down Dissolver‘s path, they’ll lose their identity entirely and relegate themselves to being another rock band with a few outré touches. While their earlier work has its share of failed experiments, it isn’t so easily pigeonholed, and even the melodic tracks shared in the ramshackle sensibility. Some of Dissolver, particularly "Airport ‘99,” sounds like Wilco toss-offs, which is a critique that really shouldn’t have to be made against a group with Iran’s history. They’re better and slippier than that, and while this album opens some rewarding doors, it signals that the more interesting ones are potentially closed.

By Brad LaBonte

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