Iran-The Moon Boys

August 25, 2009

Iran

The Moon Boys(Tumult 2003)

http://www.mediafire.com/?xfzgntxay4m

I was sorely disappointed by Iran’s latest album, Dissolver, because it stripped away all of the scuzz and feedback that mated so perfectly with their wayward way with a simple melody. Yeah, its “progression” probably had a lot to do with the addition of TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone to the band, but their newfound clarity always aims for the bullseye where Aaron Aite used to revel in mistakes and missteps. By no means is Dissolver a bad album, but count me in the minority who find Aites’ embrace of chaos more appealing than his attempts at an orderly pop song. Then again, six years have passed since The Moon Boys was released and god knows that time has a funny way of adjusting the way you view the world. Therefore, let us take a few moments to pay tribute to an album that may be one of the best albums Siltbreeze, Xpressway, Shrimper or Catsup Plate never released. Yes, these are obscure benchmarks, but it was rare that any of these labels released a perfect marriage of noise to pop even though I wanted so hard to believe that it was so. Yes, the Dead C, V-3, Yips, Amps for Christ and other disparate souls have come damn close to this holy union, but I always reach for this album over anything in their discographies.

The synthesis of noise and pop is hardly an underground concept. God knows that the Jesus & Mary Chain made some moolah with their own jigsaw of Phil Spector and white noise and the whole shoegaze scene was based upon sensual coos and a lusher brand of feedback and squall, but The Moon Boys stands out because there is a sprawl to their compositions that seems epic comparison to the aforementioned bands’ succinct slices of sweet and sour. Sonic Youth’s “Hyperstation” from their Daydream Nation seems like the most accurate touchstone for Iran’s music circa The Moon Boys. I remember listening to “Hyperstation” at 3am as a teenager and imagining if there was another band that could conjure the same loose, late-night vibe where a psych-pop song sounds as if it was heard via a faraway AM station many states away from your destination. This album does that for me throughout its entirety. Then again, I am a former insomniac who used to listen to the scratchiest transmissions instead of counting sleep or drinking warm milk, so my bias is evident.

The imperfections are what make The Moon Boys so gripping. Don’t be fooled that melodies worthy of Brian Wilson lurk beneath the muck because these tunes tend to stretch out in sometimes difficult directions. What does stick out is Aaron Aites’ guitar work as he somehow straddles the line between outright sabotage and grubby melody. No song really even stands out here as the overall effect of it as an album is what gets me every single time. I approach it as a long rambling epic where slow, atonal riffs last for days only to be replaced by some of the most simple and sweet notes that shake all of the pieces back into proper balance. Iran always stride close to the edge only to reconfigure themselves as something so sentimental and tender that you almost forget you were listening to a staccato riff seconds before. The Moon Boys is admittedly a bit of a mess, but I hear something new each time I try to reassemble the pieces.

The Bats-Compiletely Bats

August 3, 2009

The Bats

Compileletely Bats(Flying Nun 1990)

http://www.mediafire.com/?yijyouzkdog

It may be sweltering here in Philadelphia, but I’m an organized soul who likes to get a head start on the next season, especially when it’s autumn, my favorite time of the year. Throughout the years, there are only a handful of bands who somehow capture my admittedly biased view of that time where life slows down and the leaves take their sweet old time on their way from the treetops to the concrete below them. Yes, summer is a time for exploration and adventure down country back roads and travels to farflung locales, but autumn is when you take your sweet time and patiently watch another year come to close and reassess your priorities for next year while taking inventory of the present one. It’s a time for meditation and speculation about what went right and what went terribly wrong before another year gets brutally latched upon your sum total. For some reason, the Bats, along with fellow Kiwis, the  Chills, Verlaines, Magick Heads and Peter Jefferies capture this sense of ennui so perfectly that I start listening to them in earnest a couple months before they are best suited to my mood. Then again, I am an impatient soul, so it is only fitting that I pay tribute to autumn in August.

On the surface, Compiletely Bats, a collection of their first three eps, is an odd choice to associate with autumn, but they are forever intertwined with it because their songs are so optimistic on the surface, but scratch a little deeper and you see swaths of melancholy, self-doubt and introspection. In short, these are the the qualities that I associate with a time where the party slowly comes to a close and you are left questioning and applauding the past while generating a plan for the murky future.

The best example of this can be found in the opener “Made Up in Blue” which may be the apex of New Zealand pop, but the lyrics paint such a contradictory image to the chipper strums and jangles. It’s an ode to indecision and worry as its protagonist questions his social circle, direction and the advice of others as he bemoans the dead weight that surrounds him. It sums up that moment when you doubt a big decision, ponder the consequences and benefits and take a leap into the new.

In between are tales of faded glory, grasping at straws and tragic nostalgia, all of which highlight their focus on the grey and beige in our lives, but its closing number provided a perfect bookend to it superficially sunny opener. “Offside” closes out the compilation on a pitch perfect note as it eloquently depicts the onset of winter and its resultant stagnation. It details a fight against depression when your friends are hibernating, trees are bare and optimism is a rare commodity as vocalist Robert Scott embraces the bottom of the barrel only to discover that there is nothing there but darkness. Instead of wallowing in woe, Scott decides that the best path is introspection and meditation and he ultimately he decides the best path is a long walk where he embraces the scenery and decides that innocence and new beginnings are just around the corner. Just like most Bats songs, it sums up the moment before you hit rock bottom when you realize things aren’t quite so bad as your neurotic mind makes them out to be.

That’s why the Bats embody autumn. Their songs are about scenes of darkness and despair where the storm clouds break and meager rays of sunlight break through the murk and provide hope in barren times.