It’s tempting to say that the sublime heights of Iran’s third album, Dissolver, were achieved thanks to an increased studio budget, a big indie producer (Dave Sitek) and a bigger label (the result of one of its members, Kyp Malone, achieving indie-rock semi-stardom with his other band, TV on the Radio). But Dissolver is where the band was slowly but surely heading all along. It’s a great album that finds the band moving away from the “Hey, what can we do with this four-track?” vibe of their self-titled debut and their sophomore album, Moon Boys, into a fully fleshed-out noise-pop juggernaut.
Even if Malone and Sitek were nowhere near Dissolver, you’d say it sounded a lot like TV on the Radio. But back in 2002, when Moon Boys came out, Iran was the precursor to TV on the Radio — noisy, sloppy, jagged, but with hooks floating around like comets. Dissolver refines the slapdash nature of Moon Boys and is more lyrically focused than any of the band’s previous efforts. And that’s thanks to frontman Aaron Aites’ increased lyrical confidence.
Aites spends a flight worrying about a girl not knowing who he is anymore on the sauntering “Airport ’79,” and sees her face in the water and the scenery around him. “I Can See the Future” uses a movie script as a metaphor for romantic/life history, he shout’s he feels like he’s dying but he “doesn’t even know the truth” to a friend on standout “Buddy,” and he turns a preening laugh into syllables of a chorus that taunts someone who Aites promises is going to have a “really bad summer” on “Evil Summer.”
Sonically, Sitek’s fingerprints are all over Dissolver — layers of different instrumentation reveal themselves like dirt breaking up in water. A plucking piano line is buried underneath mountains of guitar fuzz on “Buddy,” a swaying guitar line pokes it’s head up and down in between the pulsing drums of “I Already Know You’re Wrong,” and the bass almost mocks the vocals on “Baby Let’s Get High One Last Time Together” as it provides a counterpoint to Aites’ singing. The highlight is “Where I’m Going,” which is vaulted by a searing, white hot guitar solo that is bolstered in spurts by piano, chunky bass, swinging orchestration, and Aites’ tale of a queen.
Dissolver is easily Iran’s most cohesive album-length statement, and it proves that there is more to the band than idle four-track trickery. It might not launch Iran to TV on the Radio standing in indie-land, but it proves that the work Iran started on its first two albums was headed toward a perfection the band achieved on Dissolver.