Attention Dimension – Jack Irons
The name Jack Irons is one that sounds familiar, yet doesn't draw a face. Say it in the context of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam, and it still may not strike a chord, and despite a rmhat includes stints with both bands, I still had my doubts when listening to his debut solo album, Attention Dimension. But Irons’ place among these groundbreaking groups is concrete. The drummer began playing music at age 13 with his best friends Hillel Slovak, guitarist Alain Johannes, and bassist Flea. Since those early days, Irons’ career has been inconsistent, partially due to a performance-hindering anxiety disorder intensified by the 1988 death of Slovak – the original guitarist for the Chili Peppers – and the rigors of a worldwide tour with Pearl Jam a decade later.
On a more positive note, Irons has been the backbone of some of the era's more important albums, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers' 1986 release The Uplifet Mofo Party Plan, and Pearl Jam’s Merkinball, No Code and Yield, as well as the Neil Young/Pearl Jam grunge-fest Mirrorball. In 1998, Irons left Pearl Jam’s Australian tour, and over the next couple of years, concentrated his efforts on controlling his harrowing anxiety. Once he had his condition in check, he vowed to complete an album of his own music. But the inherent sonic expectations from a player that has graced these albums should not carry over to Attention Dimension; it is its own entity — a surreal, tribal rhythmic exploration that strays far from the better known projects Irons has been associated with.
By 1999, with the help of friends like Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, as well as Flea and Les Claypool, Irons began the five year process of creating Attention Dimension. And from the robust drum beats that open the album on "Jackie Groove," Irons’ musical quest is clear. Over the next 10 tracks his creates aquatic themed atmospheres that surge and break with both acoustic and electronic drum beats, swelling bass lines and vocal tracks that float just beneath the surface of the barrage of sound. "Ocean’s Light" swims with murky splendor, accented by guitar and synthesizer sounds that portray the aquatic cries of whales, and Vedder and Claypool bring to life a form-defying cover of Pink Floyd’s "Shine On You Crazy Diamond."
The album's pace is only deterred by the rhythms of "Water Song" which are not strong enough for the track's 12 minutes, but such shortcomings are redeemed by songs like "Come Running," one that most resembles Irons' earlier career, but bolstered by a chorus lick taken from the George Harrison book of crying guitar. Attention Dimension is an album that drifts with an ease that is crisp around the edges, unassuming, and completely original. It is clear that despite his previous troubles, Irons’ musical vision is completely his own, and the five years it took to complete the album were well worth every minute.