With every new Kiosk album, I tear off the cellophane with a certain sense of excited trepidation.
On the one hand, I can’t wait to taste all the new cool ear-candy Arash Sobhani has picked out for me, from the candy shop of treats in his head. Arash Ali Wonka.
On the other, there is a pragmatic fatalistic Iranian innate fear in me that always hovers just far enough out to like here- that at some point Sobhani is going to fizzle and fuck up. I mean how long can he go? He has to screw this up at some point right? I mean, right?
Well, no such luck in this latest bag of goodies, “Natije-ye-Mozakerat” (Outcome of Negotiations), if you are looking for a stunning Sobhani failure, this isn’t going to be it. Maybe next time.
Starting with the now trademark Kiosk sound on “Baroon Nemiyad Inja, Morteza” (It Never Rains Here, Morteza), another exploration in what I like to call “Russian Coffee House”, these feel like some time-warp cuts, sliced right out of a 30’s Berlin parlor where Jewish-German lesbians took their effete boyfriends to fohsh, drink cognac, smoke, and OK, celebrate Socialism. Sometimes you swear you can hear the pop and scratch of the old phonograph these seem to want to be played on.
Sobhani kicks off his patented sarcastic lyrical narrative on Iranian daily life. Sung to the subliminal and metaphorical EveryIranian, a so called Morteza, who at once has the distinct honor and misfortune of listening to Sobhani complain the long list of lyrically subtle observations, as he counts down the cultural, social, and always moral, costs of being an ultimately oppressed people, who yearn to be simply ultimately unoppressed.
The subtle homage thrown to Mohsen Namjoo with a clever dililactic on the Morteza-a-a did not go unnoticed, or unappreciated. No, Dililactic is not a word. I had to make it up to describe the vocal effect.
A lot of folks say that these coffee house pieces sound the same, or go on to bray that other overbrayed braying about “Dire Straits”, and you know, I’m getting really tired of hearing this, each of these folks can honestly go and fuck themselves, because apparently they clearly don’t get the point and concept of a “vessel”, “lyrics”, nevermind skill.
“Your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes. Keep this in mind; it may offer a way to make him your friend. If not, you can kill him without hate–and quickly.” – Lazarus Long.
I am still not sure if Sobhani is the better guitar player or lyricist, but I’m having a lot of inglorious fun trying to figure this out. So when I hear these “Coffeehouse” pieces, I go with it, for 2 reasons;
One, they usually almost have something new to offer. It started with Ardalan Payvar learning how to play the god damned accordion for god’s sake! going back to “Eshgh-e-Sorat” and ever since. New editions and additions like Tara Kamangar’s heavenly violin, and now here Eric Stein’s guest offering on Mandolin, pile more onto this particular “vessel”. Don’t worry, it can take the weight.
Second, the words. I know it’s a hard concept to get, in an era where you expect your music to get into your head through tiny-pin-earbuds off your shitty smartphone while you Tweet your arrogant entrance into a Sushi bar, or worse while you update your “status”, but go with me on this for a minute.
I pay greater attention to the words, because these vessels contain really good ones. OK you can go back to your Angry Birds now.
“Haji Yadet Neest” (Don’t You Remember, Haji?) Payvar finally does what I’ve told him to do a thousand times, namely release unto, and trust his instincts and go to the satanic altar of the “Rock Keyboard”, except instead he went to Motown. OK , so here’s an unlikely challenge, take a Motown riff, and build a cool song about the Iran-Iraq war out of it. OK? Ready? GO!
Possibly my favorite song though is “Daram Miram” (I’m Leaving). Guest vocals by Babak Razavi when combined with Sobhani’s raspy narration offers the best of a young Dariush and Ebi combined into one song. At just the right moment an honest to god, direct from heaven-sent Knopfler acoustic and electric guitar riff arrives, as if to poke every single one of those very same Dire Straits objectors right in the eye. You see, there is a reason, anyone who knows, knows. Dire Straits and Knopler are really really good. To try and get there, and better, to get there, is much more than a mere tribute. It’s legion.
“Those Were the Days” scratches that nostalgia itch right there, then there, then goes up and down your back, then across to completely cover all the right areas. Add to it, Shadi Yousefian’s vocals which are getting better and better and better, every time I hear her. I swear, I’m going to talk to her as soon as I finish this.
11 songs sounds short, but as usual, there is so much to listen to, it doesn’t feel short, but as I neared the end of the journey, feeling full of newly arranged words that evoked these wild and far flung concepts like true longing, or fresh ground free-range cynical intellectualism, I started to wonder what Kiosk would sound like instrumental.
As sure as I have come to expect, the last song on this album, a dedication to “Abdi”, someone I now simply must find out who he is, “Shahr-e-Abri” (Cloudy Day) is a haunting exploration of deep instrumental richness, that proves the wish that came true, was a really good wish.
Now go get this album onto your mobile device, or whatever you call buying music these days, you can text me a thank you text later. If you dare.