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.

Adventures in Stereo

Blue Album (Creeping Bent 1997)

http://www.mediafire.com/?ywtmzvcw3ey

Primal Scream was always Bobby Gillespie’s outlet for whatever genre’s corpse he felt like fucking at that particular moment. I’m not going to act like I didn’t believe Screamadelica and XTRMNTR were bold statements at the time of their release, but hindsight is a cruel mistress. Almost their entire catalogue sounds so dated and opportunistic these days, but I guess that is the nature of their game. However, I still love their debut album, Sonic Flower Groove, since it is more fey than a Little Lord Fauntleroy costume. Their early singles for Creation are even better statements of their twee purpose as the band succeeds in crafting perfect pop tunes with the heft of an empty garbage bag, This is no insult because I still hum along to “Velocity Girl” each time I hear it because it is one of the most concise and perfect sides of pop perfection.

Jim Beattie was a founding member of Primal Scream, but left before that pasty-faced Scot believed he was a hallucinogenic prophet, then Mick Jagger’s uglier kin, then a cyberpunk, trip-hopping danger to no one. He left to focus his efforts on Spirea X, a band that recorded an amazing single for 4AD before following it with an underwhelming album. The single got me all worked up over his continuation of the Creation era of Primal Scream, but his songwriting grew thin over the course of a full-length. I wrote the fellow off until I encountered the two cds released under the moniker of Adventures in Stereo. One was Blue, the other yellow, but both seemed to be semi-official releases due to the uncleared samples that formed the foundation for Beattie’s second stab at twee.

Beattie and vocalist Judith Boyle pay homage to Phil Spector’s work with 60s girl groups, but keep things somewhat fresh by incorporating tape loops and samples as the bedrock for their upate of 60s AM radio. To be honest, most of this wouldn’t sound out of place on K, Creation, Sarah or Slumberland, but the songwriting places it a step above most of their contemporaries. The Blue Album is just a stellar collection of moody, introspective indie-pop that reminds me of Tracey Thorn’s solo album or her work with the Marine Girls. It’s a dated formula, but it works wonders here.

It’s a shame that the Yellow and Blue albums were released in such limited quantities because the band shit the bed on its subsequent releases. What was once a charming patchwork quilt of AM Gold and twee was abandoned in favor of more beats and a slicker sheen. What was once rough is now sanded smooth and their music suffered because of it. Therefore, they now populate budget bins and no one cares to investigate the origins of what made them special.

Ben E. King

Spanish Harlem/Don’t Play That Song (Atco 1961/1962)

http://www.divshare.com/download/5396815-043

Ben E. King’s rendition of “Spanish Harlem” has always sparked a fire in the romantic side of this jaded fuddy-duddy due to its uncanny Vulcan mindmeld of 50s pop orchestration, 60s soul and simple, but poetic tales that never fail to inspire memories of lost loves. It is a perfect song. Maybe this has something to do with Phil Spector’s involvement in transforming simplicity into complexity, but I always believed that this was King’s only foray into Spanish/Latino influences and Les Baxter inspired exotica. Thankfully, I was painfully wrong and picked up this two-fer of his early work that contains moments that delve into the cha-cha while delivering flawless fakeries that suggest a night in Spain without an ounce of truth. This is not an insult because King delivers some really moving performances of love struck tales over some really dramatic instrumentation that attempts to deliver infinite variations on the mood of “Spanish Harlem.”

The songs occasionally pay a little too much lip service to senoritas and siestas, but this collection makes my heart ache for the days of songwriting teams devoted to the craft of pop.  Lieber & Stoller, Goffin & King among others contribute to the creation of a gloriously square interpretation of Spanish soul that renders me disgusted by today’s version of the hired hand.

The other side of the two-fer, Don’t Play the Song, mostly abandons the Latino trimmings and aims straight for Sam Cooke territory. However, it lacks the sweaty grit of Cooke’s live recordings and aims for the silky-smooth moments of his most popular tunes. It is more “You Send Me” than “Don’t Fight It, Feel It” as he enters crooner territory with all the velvet, suede and whatever smooth substances I can muster in these fleeting moments.  It belongs alongside the many moments recorded by the Stax, Atco and Motown labels that break my heart with a forceful cry, tale of woe or smooth enticement towards the wrong decison. If you only know Ben E. King from “Spanish Harlem” or “Lean on Me” then listen to this and discover why he deserves to be placed alongside James Carr, Solomon Burke, O.V. Wright and other geniuses of his time.

Dion

70s:From Acoustic to Wall of Sound (Ace 2004)

http://www.mediafire.com/?dwgnkem6cqj

Listening to this compilation of Dion’s work between 1969-76, it is impressive to see how far his muse had traveled from 50s hits like “A Teenager in Love”, “Runaround Sue” and “I Wonder Why” once the age of Aquarius struck. Yesterday’s heroes were now regarded as squares, but Dion had larger demons to battle than the British Invasion. His career and very life was threatened by a heroin addiction, but Dion eventually conquered his habit and reinvented himself as an earnest folk-rocker with a social conscience on his comeback hit “Abraham, Martin and John.” Listen closely to the lyrics and you’ll hear a fatalistic submission to the fact that the boundless optimism of the 60s was destined to succumb to darker forces. There are assassins in our midst who are ready to claim our prophets and visionaries and leave us with only the drug addled and fried.

I digress since that song isn’t even on this compilation, but it does represent his last bout with a big hit before a series of inconsistent albums that found him settling into the 70s singer-songwriter movement. These albums didn’t sell very well, but his four albums for Warner Brothers had their moments and his collaboration with Phil Spector is alternately brilliant and totally pretentious and overblown. Supposedly, Dion despised it, but Spector had it released on his own label. None of these albums really stand out enough to deserve much of a reappraisal, but this collection of his best material between 1969-1976 filters out the slop and really showcases another side of Dion that seemed impossible during his days with the Belmonts.

This compilation is filled with that 70s mellow, country rock vibe that seems to speak to me too much. Take a look at this blog and about a quarter of it falls under this category. However, there are some nods to T.Rex on his ode to the power of music on “Doctor Rock and Roll” and “I Do Believe My Race is Run” wouldn’t sound out of place on Exile on Main Street. It’s kind of a schizophrenic collection that seems to alternate between utter downers and exuberant celebrations, but the downers kind of win out here. Soul is such a nebulous term to ascribe to music. It cannot really be quantifed, but you know it when you hear it. I hear it in many of these songs and the troubled tales weaved therein.