REVIEW: Iris - "Disconnect"

By Austin Govella

Chain Border

DisconnectIris create soothing, uplifting, classic synthpop reminiscent of the eighties' glorious heydays, updated enough to be absolutely valid in the 90's. Iris elevates 90's synthpop to the mythic lands previously only occupied by the music we recall from our high school reveries.

They have New Order's constant sense of flow, and the sequences possess the same uplifting burble I remember from the one and only Cause and Effect CD I ever owned. The melodies are excellent, memorable, catchy, and never trite, and Reagan Jones' vocals give me that warm Depeche Mode feeling often enough that I look forward to Disconnect with as much joy as I do Violator. And the songs are all about love: love lost, love in danger, love at the beginning, at the end, in the middle. It's a wonderful album.

Iris began a few years ago in Austin when Reagan Jones and Matt Morris met each other in an electronic music class and discovered they had similar musical interests: classic 80's electronic pop. Starting as Fading Iris, the duo began playing covers of their favorite songs at clubs around town before beginning to open for touring acts with a set of newly minted material.

Shorten the name to Iris, tweak a few songs, write a few more, and voila: Disconnect was voted best album at the 2001 synthpop awards. I shouldn't have to explain the number of albums Iris beat out, or the general quality at the top of the synthpop heap, but Disconnect won.

And it's a good album. I had to listen to it for about a week straight before I really felt I had enough of a handle on it to write a review. To Iris' credit, Lose in wanting never got old or stale. I'm still not tired of listening to it. Few albums can be played that often without getting old. Matt Morris's programming is solid. The keys are absolutely catchy and the song-writing is engaging.

Unfortunately, most of the songs still seem to run together. There's not a lot of variety. It's all upbeat, melodic, flowing synthpop. Never slows, gets faster, more aggressive, more atmospheric. A great album, and great songs, don't get me wrong, just not very much variety. It's like the best parts from New Order. I don't want to relate Iris to New Order too much, but I'm constantly reminded of them. The progressions, the breaks, and in all, without a lot of the rough edges New Order usually has. That 's the best part.

Despite not having much variety, there are some standout tracks. The chorus on Danger is the shame makes it one of my favorite songs on the album. Emotive vocals by Reagan Jones soar along with the synth pads over percolating rhythms. Twilight feels slightly harder than the rest of the album, but not by much. Definitely closer to the continent's typical mix of synthpop and electro by Beborn Beton and DeVision.

Annie, would I lie to you starts out with this amazingly catchy sequence. You've probably heard something similar before, but it really works here, and the pleading in the lyrics really hit home. If I ever meet Annie, I'm totally going to explain everything to her. And that, in essence, explains why this album is so good. It really connects.

If you're into more aggressive, darker, or more political music, then this album isn't for you. A lot of people relegate synthpop to the weaker end of the music spectrum, preferring harder or more artsy sounds, but Disconnect is amazing because the emotions on the album really connect. Disconnect is an unfettered discussion between the Muse and the audience, and you can hear her singing to you. About love.

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