The Narrator Such Triumph
In the music industry today, artists often hit the studio surprisingly early in their lifespans. Albums get recorded before bands have honed their live sound or figured out how to play together. Listeners can usually hear that rush to join the music marketplace through the speakers, as albums sound incomplete, sloppy, or thrown together. Chicago outfit The Narrator followed a different path, releasing a couple of small EPs before recording a debut full-length after a couple of years of writing, performing, and touring. Their patience pays dividends on Such Triumph's 12 tracks. The sound dwells somewhere around aggressive post-punk and indie rock, not unlike Fugazi, and pre-funk Q And Not U: noisy, guitar-centric, loud/quiet dynamics, and plenty of power. As with many bands that play this style, vocals are the weak link; the singers mostly shout (albeit melodically), but the singing parts often fall flat. But thin vocals actually go with this kind of music, and their low place in the mix prevents them from being distracting.
But Such Triumph's strengths outweigh the weaknesses. Even though it's The Narrator's debut full-length, the album nevertheless sounds mature. The group's members play confidently, as if they allowed the songs to resolve themselves instead of forcing them into ill-fitting formulas. "Pregnant Boys" begins with a tense buildup of guitar, vocals, and drums that breaks into a similarly urgent verse. Its parts shift unexpectedly and suddenly, occasionally sounding like another track has begun. But The Narrator makes such moments sound less like tangents and more like natural progressions. A feeling of agitated unease permeates all the songs, even the relatively slow, quiet 10th track, "Wolves In The Walls." What begins as a love song quickly shifts tone; a memory of mundane moments spent driving with an ex seems tender in retrospect, especially when the present feels empty: "Cheers is on / I've seen this one / Lay in bed and watch the walls." But Such Triumph never resorts to hackneyed songwriting themes; the mostly esoteric lyrics only hint at the songs' meanings, and the music remains unpredictable for the duration of the album. As other bands rush to record albums that make them cringe later, The Narrator created one that could become the anchor of their catalogue.