Che Arthur

Iron

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Often, when looking back, a musician is said to be ahead of his or her time, which is generally a nice way of stating that no one really understood what said musician was doing when he or she was actually doing it. With Che Arthur, however, the guitarist/songwriter seems to have the opposite problem: he's behind the time, and not in the kind of way that bands like the Strokes or Interpol, who have reached back to the '70s for inspiration, are. Instead, Arthur turns to mid-'90s grunge and post-grunge, a style that hasn't necessarily aged all that gracefully, at least from the vantage point of ten years out. His sophomore album, Iron, is the kind of thing that would be a decent enough find in 1995, but in 2007, it comes across as trite and a little tedious. Arthur goes for the lo-fi, D.I.Y. approach here, instead of glossy Foo Fighters-esque production (which might have served him better), but because his lyrics are so dramatic, the kind of thing a literate teenager might write, this only seems amateurish, with a guitar that sounds like it needs new strings, vocals mixed far too low (especially on the perplexing title song, in which they're so soft it is only apparent that they exist; what he is actually saying is completely unintelligible), and monotonous melodies, both inter- and intra-song. Even the guitar, the instrument Arthur played with the band Atombombpocketknife, is pretty unmemorable, occasionally finding an interesting riff but more often sticking empty, droning, open-string heavy chords that weigh down the record and the singer's voice. A few times -- "Revisionism," for example -- he's able to break out from this pattern and put something with musically worthwhile parts together, but unfortunately this is the exception rather than the rule, and makes Iron a rather tiresome listen overall.

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