I finally got the go ahead from Bamahang Productions and modern guitar deity Babak Khiavchi, that the latest album by Kiosk “Eshghe Sorat _amor de la velocidad” (Love of Speed) was finally available on iTunes. A month after the groundbreaking concert at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, as one of many fans of this new form of Iranian pop music, I bought the album, and eagerly put it on my iPod so I could listen uninterrupted.
Of course we've all seen the brilliant YouTube video by Ahmad Kiarostami of the title track, “Eshghe Sorat” (now available with English subtitles), or as I like to call it, the Pizza Ghormeh-Sabzi song! But before we get to that, I think it is important to clarify exactly what the importance of Kiosk is, now that we have a second album to quash that whole one-hit-wonder threat the first album had hanging over it's head.
First off, the form of the music. Blues, or southern Blues-rock, and it's many variants is a courtesy and gift by legends like BB King, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, and Bob Dylan. Second, this form of music is ideal for use in at once embracing and staving off the sweet pain of an inevitable plunge into one's “Badbakhti”. So it applies very well to the general situation that founder Arash Sobhani clearly wants us to indulge in.
On this album, what was tenderly touched on in the first Iranian album, to make you think, is now a blaring Sooreh-Esrafeel, or warning of the real situation inside Iran. You have to really listen (hence an iPod) to the words that are at times whispered with a grizzled voice that sounds a lot like Mark Knofler, post Dire Straits. The form, an obvious homage however, is the perfect vehicle for what Sobhani has to say.
On “Minboos Sabz” (Green Minibus), he confronts us with the silently ignored situation in Iran describing the daily inhumanity of being stopped by the government in the streets, interrogated, and questioned, and how people in Iran willingly numb themselves to the great indignity of constant surveillance and observation by religiously prude authorities. That the numbing is a choice out of hopeless survival. The clarity of what is normal daily life is what is refreshing and highly informative and imbibes a sense of solidarity in those of us blessed to be Iranians who live free.
The information, the kind we don't get from friends and relatives, who upon their return from a “vacation” to Iran, conveniently leave off their trip report, or maybe they too have forgotten and become as numb as their local counterparts.
Small audio touches like mimicking a motorcycle with a guitar when the words mention a “moped, or a 1000 Motorcycle”, offer an audio glimpse into a landscape of stark reality and truth. On “Amoo Asdollah” (Uncle Asdollah), you start to hear the same vein of social criticism, only part way through you realize that he is in reality singing an alternate view of the famous Iranian TV Series, “Daie Jan Napelon” (Dear Uncle Napoleon), which ran during the 70's, and is still considered a definitive social critical moment.
The best song for my money though is “Bitarbiat” (No Manners), a cathartic romp through common street slang and Persian curse words that to my knowledge has never been done on any Iranian pop song. I saw this live and I must say it works very well. As yet another commentary, this time aimed at the pretentiousness of Iranian TV news reporters, who gloss over self-importance with feigned journalistic intent. The sheer glee and release of screaming the un-screamable has me wondering exactly how long it will be before we see more YouTube videos by Tehran school girls driving and singing along in their cars, screaming the fill-in-the-blank parts from car widows carelessly. In case your cursing needs help, they are in order of appearance; Jah-Kesh, Bacheh-Koony, Zanikeyeh-Jendeh, Asabemono-Gahidan, Yeh-Moshti-Coskhol, Mardtikeyeh-Kharcos(d)eh, Adameh Dayoos,
The most controversial, again thanks to Kiarostami's video montage straight from the inside of today's Iran, is by far the Pizza Ghormeh Sabzi song, or “Eshghe Sorat”. The obvious foibles of day to day life in Iran, are drizzled like a haiku on the thin crust of consciousness. Too fast to take in all at once, you have to listen to this song like 5 times to get all of the references.
As in, “we've got no lunch or dinner, instead we eat yellow cake” the obvious reference to Iran's current nuclear ambitions.
Or, “potato pride, deity democracy”, possibly the general lack of courage to stand up against immoral religious oppression.
Or, “smuggling women to Dubai, where are you honorable men?…” a hard cry against the trend in Iranian prostitution of exporting women for consumption in Dubai.
On this song, a welcome collaboration I was glad to hear, was the inclusion of a guest appearance of another up and coming alternative star, none other than Hamed Nikpay, who flexes his vocal muscle not unlike Sting's appearance on Knofler's “I want my MTV”. I thought that was very cool to do. Look for a Nikpay review soon.
Production is far better than the first album “Adameh Mamooli” (Ordinary Man). Improved tools and software are clearly audible. It is still a largely “assembled” work, a regrettable result of band mates not being in the same geography, spread across the Pacific Northwest and Canada. I was unsure of Shahrouz Molaei's drums at first, maybe they are a bit too loud, but their quality is high and a great standout. Keyboardist Ardalan Payvar is simply outstanding, taking a fresh and welcome retro approach to licks I thought were juicy and marvelous throughout. The guitar work is as always, masterful. haughty, arrogant, rude, and sad. But you must blindly accept it as your personal Christ and Savior if you are going to appreciate it the way it is intended. Otherwise you're just another numb mildly appreciative cog.
My only regret is one that I cannot regret. Kiosk is an outstanding, highly relevant band. A much needed harbinger of what desperately needs to be sung, screamed actually, by not just one raspy voice and a guitar in San Francisco, but by an entire nation, and if not them, then at least one generation below it. To rage against a machine stench-scented with rose water and esfand, one that is in fact sputtering, as it spews the last of the black and brown toxic smoke of intolerance and injustice. In these last few gasps, at some point we're going to need to decide to go in for the kill and put it out of it's and our misery. Soon, because it is poisoning us all.
At least that's what I think Arash is saying!