There really is nothing quite like being rocked. Not in the way your mother would do to you as an infant, but as Led Zeppelin would do to you, pretty much whenever. I do enjoy being rocked, I must admit. It’s a feeling that everyone needs to experience from time to time, and with the utmost intensity. You don’t just casually rock, my friend. You allow yourself to be pummeled. And that’s the way it’s done.
Sigh…but alas, there are few good sources of rocking left in the world. Everyone has gone freak-folk or joined the DFA, each of which have their merits. But when was the last time Joanna Newsom really “kicked ass”? I have yet to experience such a thing. I’ll take my Juan McLean and Devendra Banhart and enjoy them, but in the meantime, I need some volume. I want to hear some loud guitars, I want to hear some raw, spastic screaming and some inspired bursts of pure energy.
The gentlemen of The Narrator must have heard my lament, because their new album, Such Triumph, is exactly what I wanted, more or less. It doesn’t start out as brutal and full of piss-‘n’-vinegar as I had hoped, but that’s remedied soon enough when the band gets to “Pregnant Boys.” From the opening guitar riff, the song is a dead ringer for Lonesome Crowded West era Modest Mouse, which is never a bad thing, if you ask me. But if you must know, the band doesn’t remain in this realm for too long, opting for the more straightforward rocker “Ergot Blues” next.
The funny thing about The Narrator, however, is that they seem to sound a lot more like Pacific Northwest bands than anyone from their native Chicago. No Jesus Lizard here, just the Mouse and, as evident on the sludgy “Crapdragon,” Unwound. Well, there are some other noteworthy comparisons—Hot Snakes, Les Savy Fav, Q and Not U—but they’re all non-Midwestern bands. It all just goes to show that locale doesn’t determine sound, the songwriter does. And in this case, the songwriters do a fine job of spewing forth some mighty abrasive, yet enjoyable, punk rock.
Friends, I have been rocked. The Narrator delivered the goods in large amounts, without compromising any style in the process. They play punk rock shaped by innovation and, more importantly, good songs. And when you have rocking and good songwriting, you really can’t lose.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.