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The Narrator

Such Triumph

(Flameshovel; US: 28 Jun 2005; UK: Available as import)

I’m probably not out of line in suggesting that the Narrator’s practice space is probably a complete mess. I can picture it now—a mess of duct-taped patch cords, amplifiers with empty beer bottles lined up on top, a carpet that is more dirt than fiber, and the stale smell of cigarettes hanging in the air. But this isn’t the filth created by a bunch of guys with no ambition or no talent, content to rip through the same Eagles covers every weekend. Nope. This is the filth of a band so consumed and excited by creating something new that keeping the jam space clean isn’t a priority.


It’s a sort of accidental, kind of improvised (and probably a bit drunk) brand of messy genius that the Narrator bring to their debut full length Such Triumph. To be sure, the Narrator draws upon some obvious touchstones. Pavement’s slacker sophistication can be easily referenced, as can Dinosaur Jr.‘s unique distorted pop. Even Sonic Youth’s noisy excursions make an appearance. But while the Narrator draws upon indie rock’s forefathers, they reinvent them into something that is vibrantly alive and surprisingly fresh. Unashamedly rough around the edges and at times willfully indulgent, Such Triumph succeeds because of it. “We are kids with extra teeth / we are here to eat you alive,” they sing on “Roughhousing”, and you’d better believe every word of it.


To begin the album, the Narrator seduces the listener into a false sense of comfort. “New Blood/New Weather” begins almost majestically, with slowly strummed guitars and vocals that seem to be floating in from another room. It’s nearly a minute and a half before the Narrator reveal themselves in all their shambling glory: pop chord progressions, gleeful drumming, and a chorus of overlapping vocals all shouting to be heard on top of one another. It’s as chaotic as it sounds, but the Narrator seems to blend it into a seamless whole. You won’t find any one member standing out with guitar heroics or flashy drumming. But like some kind of working man’s Voltron, the group’s power is enthusiasm. And what they lack in a distinct sound, they make up for in an almost impenetrable strength.


The album’s centerpiece, the six-minute “Now Is the Time for All Good Men”, showcases that power. Really, this song shouldn’t be allowed to work as well as it does. The parts are simplistic and at times needlessly bloated, the lyrics kind of silly and the structure rather obviously constructed, with time changes that stick out like a sore thumb. But by God, it’s also one of the disc’s most compelling tracks. The band just plows through it, making what shouldn’t work succeed by sheer bravura. Thus, it’s not surprising that when the band trims the fat, they are pretty much unstoppable. “Crapdragon”, “Ergot Blues”, “Wait No Actually”, and “This Party’s Over” are all gleaming pop nuggets, perfectly finding the balance between musical dexterity and gosh darned chance.


If Such Triumph proves anything, it’s that rock doesn’t really need to be that hard. In a time of indie-rock bands rounding themselves out with quasi-orchestras, dressing up in uniforms, adding banks of synths, and writing lyrics that are best left to early drafts of creative writing class short stories, the Narrator have stripped the genre down its essentials. Guitars, drums, and guts - no more, no less. It may not be pretty, and your parents probably won’t like it, but the Narrator is exactly the kind of band that the increasingly rarified air of the indie-rock world needs right now.

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14 May 2007
This Chicago trio offer up another solid disc of shaggy-haired and slackjawed indie rock.
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