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I Can See the Future

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Iran: An Addled Ode To Alienation

Iran: An Addled Ode To Alienation

I Can See the Future

  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Wednesday's Pick

  • Song: "I Can See the Future"
  • Artist: Iran
  • CD: Dissolver
  • Genre: Rock

In "I Can See the Future," Iran strips away some of its distortion and noise for a look at personal identity. courtesy of the artist hide caption

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courtesy of the artist

In the seven years between Iran's distortion-laden and noise-crazed 2002 album The Moon Boys and 2009's Dissolver, frontman Aaron Aites has hardly rested. Most notably, he spent the better part of two years in Norway directing Until the Light Takes Us, a documentary about Norwegian black metal. Upon returning to the U.S., Aites regrouped with guitarist Kyp Malone (TV on the Radio) and put together a new incarnation of the band in order to record Dissolver, a sonic postcard from the edge penned by a man working through the social construction of identity and his place in the world.

Dissolver is a concept album: Many have drawn comparisons to early lo-fi giants Sebadoh and Pavement, but a better analogue is Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie. Aites allows that his experience in Norway and subsequent return left him feeling estranged from the comforts that he once knew and uncertain about how to fall back in line with his American identity. This alienation plays out over the course of Dissolver's 10 tracks, with "I Can See the Future" setting the stage and introducing the main narrative voice. The song starts out sparse — just vocals and guitar — and builds from there, layering in more instruments, vocal harmonies and eventually a triumphant, infectious chorus of woo-hoos.

Aites is a mercurial character — pinning down the essence of his intentions is a fool's errand — but his lyrics could easily be interpreted as expressions of anxiety for a man caught between the roles of observer and performer. Spoken from a self-conscious, first-person remove, "I Can See the Future" describes the accumulating events surrounding the commencement of a movie, a rock concert or just an unwelcome visit to "the bedrooms of the past." Whether the song is dealing with actual life, a scripted drama or some manner of spontaneous performance is nebulous; certainly, the narrator is unclear: "The actress playing you / was waiting for her cue / She asked me, 'How much of this script is true?' / I wish I knew." To the listener, the narrator may come across as addled — possibly even schizophrenic. Which might be precisely what happens to a man who spent the better part of two years chronicling the black-metal scene in Norway.

Some tastemaking blogs and Web sites have expressed anxiety that Iran's straightforward approach to its newest record represents a kowtowing to more normative constructs — as though the very notion that lyrics can be rendered intelligibly somehow suggests that Iran's next record will sound like Daughtry. To the contrary, what the band's evolution really suggests is a desire, and a courageous one at that, to have the content of its material scrutinized and assessed minus the crutch of easily achieved distortion and "avant" signatures. Is this the future that Aites is envisioning in the song?

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