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Narrator @ Empty Bottle

Chicago, Illinois, USA

Chicago, Illinois, USA

Narrator @ Vaudeville Mews

Des Moines, Iowa, USA

Des Moines, Iowa, USA

Narrator @ Sokol Underground

Omaha, Nebraska, USA

Omaha, Nebraska, USA

This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


Rating: 6.0

The most dangerous concert I've ever been to-- and possibly the best-- was put on by The Narrator in New Haven last November. The band played in the backyard of a Yale co-op, on the second floor of a run-down barn that housed everything from pirate ship blueprints, to snubbed cubist attempts, to what I think might've been a '57 Chevy. The wood and nails that held the barn together had been loosened by repeated ivy league fetes of women, cocaine, and horse racing, to the point that when the 80 people in attendance began jumping around during the band's mid-set performance of "The Electric Slide", the floor collapsed: Skulls and bones started breaking, and we all had this awesome band to thank for our hospital bills and a perfectly unrequited night.

I was supposed to buy The Narrator's seven-inch after the show but couldn't because of the unpleasantness, so it was with death-defying anticipation that I cracked open the Youth City Fire EP, the Chicago quartet's Flameshovel debut. It's uneven, and the vocals range from painfully melodramatic to sadly insecure, but there are bright glimmers of that D.C.-informed punk rock energy that quite literally brought down the house.

The warp-speed crowd-noise montage that kick-starts "Culture/Counts" finally gives way to PiL-dirty guitar slashes and thick drumming that, though not the crispest, rivals pretty much anything on Dischord in terms of sheer energy. There's a similar crash-and-burn aesthetic to "All Are Assassins", which, at under two minutes, manages some potent contrasts and a climactic breakdown/handclap-buildup that flat-out kills in a live setting.

As instrumentalists, The Narrator are tighter than one might expect from a band that's only been around a year and a half; as songwriters, they're burying really slick riffs deep into their mix-- it's the vocals that hold the Youth City Fire EP back. Producer Greg Norman (who's recorded Guided by Voices and 90 Day Men, among others) desperately tries to keep the vocals from being overly exposed, but all too often, it's to no avail-- the energy's there, but the tonality and confidence are not, which is especially dangerous when The Narrator aren't at breakneck speed, such as on the ersatz Sonic Youth noodlander "We Call Police" or the confusing emo waltz "Horse with Blinders".

Those two songs are dangerous slip-ups on an already short EP, which is why the stunning first two minutes of closer "The Electric Slide" are so critical for this young band. This may be the most bad-ass opening of a rock song I've heard so far this year: the call of quiet single-line guitar intervals, snare rim tapping, and a bitter chorus of "Fight! Fight! The Winners! The Winners!" beget increasingly monstrous responses and some fantastic bass work towards the end of movement. It's glorious-- until The Narrator drops the old "can you feel the cancer spread inside me" line, but fine, whatever. Youth City Fire, for all its shortcomings, harbors some seriously potent rock moments. Let's hope the band can manage some self-censorship on future releases without sacrificing the energy that makes them so compelling live.

-Nick Sylvester, April 13th, 2004 -

"POP MUSIC: Wednesday, September 29, 2004; Page C11; The Narrator"
By Patrick Foster

Now is about the time we should start seeing bands populated by young men who were inspired by the first Strokes album. Brooklyn foursome the End of the World sure sounded like they were writing a love letter to Julian Casablancas and company at the Galaxy Hut on Monday night. And during their warm-up set for the Narrator, they didn't show many indications that they've yet developed anything more than a penchant for earnest imitation.

The End of the World did seem to win the admiration of the evening's headliner, though, since the Narrator actually covered one of the band's songs during its brief but explosive set. The original songs by the Narrator, a Chicago group, were far more interesting,however, a boiling combination of stabbing guitars and quick-cut tempo changes that barely hung together to the finish. When they did, as on the hammering "All Are Assassins," the Narrator sounded close to brilliant: a headlong metallic charge from the rhythm section, a scraping guitar riff and a vocal pleading for something or anything to make it all stop. It was pure punk emotion, of course, but the deliciously unpolished song structures indicated that the Narrator boys -- especially talented drummer Nate Heneghan -- have kept an ear open to their home town's post-rock scene.

The group's "Youth City Fire" EP isn't consistently enthralling. But it contains enough moments -- confirmed by the band's loose but fascinating performance -- to mark the Narrator as the kind of group that, in a sane world, really should be considered for a Best New Artist Grammy. - Washington Post

Rating: 4 out of 6 (Good)

Chicago's The Narrator play with abandon and conviction, just like a young band with nothing lose should. The Narrator can be heard trudging through some familiar post-punk territory as they design a solid framework on which to expand. They have a great way of building tension and can bring it crashing down. So now that the homework's done and the final has been taken, it's time to get to work.
-- Mike Alexis - Devil in the Woods

The early notices on the Narrator's debut EP, Youth City Fire (coming on the heels of their initial 7" introduction last year), place the Chicago quartet in the emo camp, and that's not too far off the mark. The Narrator throws up sheets of spiky and dissonant guitar squall that seems reminiscent of Jawbox and early Promise Ring, with a relentless pace and an edgy melodicism that fits nicely next to Modest Mouse. But there are also potent references to the seminal '70s punk howlers as the Narrator displays Wire's frenetic and jagged rhythms ("Culture/Counts") and the Buzzcocks' manic marriage of agit-pop and punk fury (the six-minute mini-epic "The Electric Slide"). The Narrator offers up a nice blend of classic and contemporary stylings, off-kilter enough to be interesting and melodic enough to inspire anticipation for their first first full release.
-- Brian Baker - Amplifier

Rating: 3 out of 5

These guys actually came through for me here-- literally everything the Narrator could have improved since their debut Youth City Fire EP has been re-upped and double-ante'd. Vocals sound a billion times less exposed (surely the fruits of practice, or ProTools, or both); the guitars have a bit more tail so we hear fewer mistakes; the drums, already the Narrator's confident ace, find more places for personality without overwhelming the other lines. OK, so now the Narrator sound like pre-Power Q & Not U. But hey, not even Q & Not U sound like pre-Power Q & Not U anymore, and this Guapo shit still gets me nervous, so I'll take what I can get, crazy lyrics and all. [Nick Sylvester] -

By Liz Worth
June 01, 2005

The first several seconds of this album are deceiving sounds of droning blandness and faux oddities, but the opening track, “New Blood/New Weather,” turns into something entirely different before you can finish rolling your eyes. As the song turns this corner the sound takes on a much more defined style, one that is established with burnt-out, indistinct aggression. Soon after it becomes obvious that these guys probably don’t’ give too much consideration about who’s listening, and it’s this kind of attitude that suits the Narrator so well. “Ergot Blues” is a standout track that reels and crashes as the vocals are half-sung half-wrenched in a suppressed sense of urgency. “This Party’s Over” is another track that deserves a second listen as it leaks out tinges of ’90s nostalgia. The Narrator certainly aren’t out to revolutionise the music industry, but it’s easy to settle for the heedless disquiet they’ve got going on here. - Exclaim!


Such Triumph [Flameshovel 06.28.05]
Youth City Fire EP [Flameshovel 2004]
The Cavaliers 7" [Flameshovel 2003]


Feeling a bit camera shy


As reported by the fine folks at Pitchfork, "The most dangerous concert I've ever been to -- and possibly the best --was put on by The Narrator in New Haven last November... when the 80 people in attendance began jumping around during the band's mid-set performance of ‘The Electric Slide’, the floor collapsed: Skulls and bones started breaking, and we all had this awesome band to thank for our hospital bills and a perfectly unrequited night."

When asking The Narrator's Jesse Woghin about the incident he simply nods, "That's what we do, we dominate." There's a profound beauty in his modesty. Sometimes it's easier to just walk away, shrug your shoulders and mumble, "Oh, it was nothing special." Simply stated, The Narrator are in many ways this soft-spoken diffidence incarnate. They acknowledge the fact that they're not re-inventing the music world per se. But sometimes, the most humble of attempts can actually lead to triumph.

And you might want to count The Narrator's debut full-length Such Triumph in as one such achievement. Just don't tell The Narrator's Sam Axelrod anything along those lines. Axelrod acknowledges the fact that both himself and his band mates (James Barron, N8 Heneghan, and Jesse Woghin) labored hard and steadfastly over Such Triumph, but he's also quick to point out that he doesn't like the idea of the current hype-a-minute indie boom, “We simply set out to make our best record possible regardless of outward expectation.”

What were you anticipating from such an unassuming group of fellows? Diamond-studded belts and $600 haircuts? There is rock here, and it's mined and polished and cut and refined, but it's much more raw than anything you'd bring home to a would-be-spouse. Written over the past year, Such Triumph (recorded and mixed by Scott Adamson at Chicago's Semaphore Recording Studio) throws the 'for those about to post-rock, we salute you' book out the window, and whittles away subliminally at the band's collective outside influences. It's aggressive and tempestuous and oblique and all the things you wouldn't normally expect to hear from an active band geographically based in the largest city in Illinois. But it's also a lesson in introspection. The struggle to understand the present, while the fucked up ways in which we got there are explored, exposed and espoused upon within Such Triumph, only it thankfully lacks the miscreant coming-of-age tag that starts with "e" and ends with "o." And it's done up among a series of chaotic, estranged numbers that run the gamut of influence from Cap N' Jazz ("Pregnant Boys") to Unwound ("Crapdragon") to early Pavement ("Wolves in the Walls").

Don't assume that the Narrator are simply pillaging bits of their record collections and reassembling the pieces. Such Triumph's amalgamated influences possess a newness, a willingness to try, and the gall to work through it, dispelled through tense bursts of energy, reverb heavy downtime and rain soaked t-shirts.

The Narrator's path isn't inhibited by prospect; they just want to make music that's challenging to themselves, without worrying about the here and now. But maybe, just maybe, given the right circumstances, some much needed vigor, and a little dash of well-heaped humility, The Narrator and Such Triumph could very well turn the music world on it’s ear after all.