A rare gem from one of New York’s first most eclectic groups, Dissolver has been an awfully long time coming. Originally scheduled for release three years ago and tweaked, re-tweaked, renamed, and finally landing this past month via Narnack, Iran’s third album is their most straightforward yet.
Dissolver works in layers. Iran’s recording members -- singer/songwriter Aaron Aites, along with Kyp Malone (TV on the Radio), Pete Hoffman (The Mendoza Line), and Aaron Romanello (Grand Mal) -- come from diverse backgrounds, and it all comes together with resounding abandon on Dissolver. The appeal here is a departure from the band’s previous work; front and center for the first time are Aites’s vocals, revealing a more affable Iran with an unmistakable early-90s feel. Fuzzy, well-orchestrated melodies with moments of jovial dissonance punctuate the album throughout on standout tracks like “Buddy” and “I Already Know You’re Wrong”, which manage to encompass a dreamy land somewhere in between Yo La Tengo and The Walkmen. Elsewhere, on “Can I Feel What?, the band gets deliciously spacey with a hint of atmospheric soul, bolstered by Malone’s backing vocals.
Still, there are dangers in embracing one’s poppier side, and those come into play with unfortunate regularity on Dissolver. Aites’s strong voice here brings his lyrics into the forefront, and on songs like “Airport ‘79”, they prove to be a distraction. Too-obvious rhymes and an obvious airport-angst storyline mar what is otherwise a simple and understated pop song. These lyrical snafus tend to get in the way throughout the album, disrupting songs like “Baby Let’s Get High One Last Time” and “Evil Summer” and proving difficult to ignore.
Overall, the biggest surprise of Dissolver is how few surprises there are. Given Iran’s pedigree and its six years in the making, Dissolver comes with a heap of expectations piled upon its release that it never quite meets. Still, at its best, it’s a return to the kind of record that most “indie rock” fans grew up loving but haven’t heard in years. There’s a lot to be said for the straightforward.