Review of Shen’s “Best of”

Long Thought Lost: Shen Resurfaces!

Excerpts (edited) from a review originally posted by Bruce Bahmani @ iranian.com (August 16, 2011)

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In 1978 an unknown band called Shen founded by Kaveh Hashemi began making some of the most powerful music during what was to become one of the most tumultuous and critical periods in Iran’s long history. But before Shen had the chance to really explode, the Iranian Revolution put an end to….

…OK, I really have to stop this charade right now, because none of this is actually true,well, the long history & revolution part are but there was no band called Shen in the 70’s. Even though there should have been one.

In fact, Shen is very much a modern day, Montreal-based Rock-Pop band that I have recently discovered, and the latest fodder for my never ending quest for new Iranian music.

That being said, Shen certainly sounds like a long lost Iranian band from the 70’s era Tehran though and band founder Kaveh Hashemi, the genius behind this new genus of Iranian popular music, is most certainly real. The best way I can describe his compositions is that they’re symphonic, not the typical indie band “copycat” material one would expect to hear from a typical Iranian group but more like a mix between the incredibly complex sound of a Tears for Fears, Floyd, Bowie, Queen, with a little bit of ELO and even The Eagles, thrown in for good measure …

Hashemi’s vocals are at once intriguing and haunting, a cross between Al Stewart, Curt Kobain, Eddie Vedder, and especially Nick Drake. And in Farsi, to boot! All told, his range is surprisingly precise and purposeful. Iranian music normally isn’t this raw, emotional or vulnerable. Take the song “Shaansi chand taa kish”, for instance, the play on words in the lyrics is one thing, but it’s the sheer epic Iranian-style rockness of the guitar solo appearing out of nowhere that takes it to another level. I can’t help but cry every time I hear this song. Seriously.

So yes, Hashemi’s lyrics are certainly deep. And sharp. Far sharper than what you’re used to, so much so that you might not feel the cut initially. It might take several listens. As does getting used to his voice, which works perfectly well within the “context” of his music but might take some getting used to, at least for the uninitiated Iranian rock listener. It must be said that the real Achilles heel of Shen’s material, if there is one, it is the sub-par production values, which point to an all-around lack of resources, as for instance evidenced by the abundance of sampled keyboards and strings, instead of the real thing. What a difference that would have made.

But if you can overlook those intial obstacles, you’re in for one hell of a ride. Shen’s music touched my soul several times over during what was supposed to be just a routine listen to another Indie-Alternative-Rock-Pop Iranian band. But it ended up being oh so much more than that.

If Shen ever tours, I’m seriously getting seriously wasted before I go…