Monday, 18 July 2016

NARCS – ALBUM REVIEW

Narcs – A Thinking Animal (Clue Records) 
Narcs - A Thinking Animal


Release Date: Out Now

Regular readers of LWM will know just how awesome and important I think Leeds quartet Narcs are at the moment and this, their second album, comes just at the right time. ‘A Thinking Animal’ is an album full of anger, outrage, despair and beautifully worded straight talking so grab a copy of the most recent newspaper, read it all and then put this album on to get you fired up to do something about the state the world is in right now.

Don’t let the softly spoken opening to ‘Drains’ fool you, this is just the final murmurings of a man about to lose his rag with the world as charismatic frontman Wilko spits, screams and projects-bile atop some of the tightest and most impassioned musicianship you’re likely to find anywhere on this godforsaken planet. Recent single ‘Pig’ opens like something straight out of the Rage Against The Machine or Muse back catalogues with strained guitar notes and a sinister grumble in the background before exploding in the kind of chorus that, by rights, should see armies of adoring fans lose their shit in sweaty venues all over the country. The single, rumbling, monotone bass note that runs through ‘RAUS!’ is possibly the most threatening thing I’ve heard in music and it perfectly mirrors the underlying bigotry, xenophobia and hatred currently bubbling just beneath the surface of an entirely un-United Kingdom. When the chorus screams of “RAUS! RAUS!” (literally ‘get out’ in German) finally hit your ears it’s almost a relief, such is the build-up of tension, pressure and general agitation. It’s as masterful as it is terrifying.

The wondrous ‘Bullingdon Boys’ has been covered on this blog before in all of its lyrical beauty but needless to say it stands up in the format of an album track just as well as does on its lonesome – Tories beware if this ever gets play listed on Radio 1 (unlikely but still, don’t think hiding behind a woman who once went to a comprehensive is going to save you). ‘Mile Die’ has the kind of angular, rhythmic appeal that System Of A Down and At The Drive-In excel in but with the weight of RATM or Deftones in their prime but with a very definite Leeds accent. By the time we reach the middle point of the album, ‘Head Boy Sonnet’, your ears have just about adjusted but very little can you prepare you for the distortion infused onslaught which changes tempo and direction like a Brexit voter changes their mind.

Narcs - get angry
One of the most endearing things about Narcs is their enthralling, engaging and, at times, educating lyrics and ‘Empathy The Dog’ is a great example of this. With the Pixies inspired bass line swagger grunging the place up and some sparse guitar notes pinging about, Wilko croons through a razor blade “Every day I pray for civil war, for that moment I can nail your fucking head to the floor” and “Money is the mother, empathy the dog”. The beautifully cacophonous crescendo is Reuben-esque and it’s hard not to get swept up in their grind and swirl so don’t even try to resist, it’s futile. The tinny, mechanical rhythm that opens up ‘Soak’ is almost cleansing in its simplicity and this is possibly the album’s calmest moment as something more akin to the Maccabees or Foals emerges from the intermingling guitars and waltz rhythm. ‘Swinehound’ returns normal service though with a menacing riff and pounding drums that are stadium ready in the way that Muse love to full a space with noise while Wilko screams for millions of us “You don’t speak for me; you don’t speak for me!”.

As the album nears its terrifying conclusion, ‘I Told You I Was Ill’ screams in to view with an assured swagger and yet again an enormous bass sound powering the whole tune before descending in to the kind of chaotic jam ending that would give Queens Of The Stoneage nightmares. Closing song, ‘Pilot Light’ has the sinister, sombre air of the soundtrack to someone’s final minutes in the family home lit by the early dawn light before going off to perform some action that is required to quieten their raging soul. However, at seven minutes long this beast isn’t so straightforward and a cinematic, super-sized tune emerges like Martin Sheen from the mud with an inevitable, bloody conclusion in its eyes.

There are two things to consider with this album, with Narcs as a band in fact. Firstly, the musicianship, the songwriting, the lyricism and the whole craft is first class. They are the real deal, the whole package and they are genuinely one of my favourite bands of all time which makes me excited because not many bands make it on to that list these days. Secondly, Narcs are pissed. Angry. Raging. Whatever you want to call it, Narcs aren’t happy about the state of the world but more specifically UK politics and what it’s doing to people. I don’t think they care about what’s happening to our ‘once great country’ or anything like that, it’s what is happening to the forgotten masses while the privileged few fight for who gets to hold the least shitty end of the shitty stick in Westminster. Narcs want you to stand up and find your voice but if you can’t do that then listen to ‘A Thinking Animal’ and, at the very least, hear theirs. It’s loud and it speaks a whole lot of sense.


Live Dates:

23rd July – Tramlines Festival, Sheffield
6th August – Humber Street Sesh, Hull w/Life + Vulgarians + Weirds + Allusondrugs
14th October – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds w/Kerbdog
15th October – The Boston Music Room, London w/Kerbdog

16th October – The Globe, Cardiff w/Kerbdog

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