I respect my dog's opinions. She's great at reading people:
she loves the cool ones, ignores the stupid ones, and growls
at the crazies. She's also got impeccable taste in music, which
means that when I put in a new CD and she perks up, I perk up.
So, it's a cold, rainy, lazy Sunday afternoon. My dog and I are
lying comatose on the bed, and I put in this EP Youth City
Fire by Chicago newcomers The Narrator. Almost immediately,
before I really even give the disc a chance, I begin to dismiss
it. Blah, blah, blah, another emo band. Ho-hum. "Oh well,"
I think to myself, "At least I'll get some nap time in."
But my dog's ears pop up, and she begins to look intently at the
stereo, then at me.
"Wait a minute," she says, "You should listen
to this one."
"Oh, come on, Cadence, it's just another stupid, lo-fi
"No, there's something to this. It makes me want to destroy
So while my dog is shredding her pillow to pieces in her own
imaginary mosh pit, I'm giving the EP a closer listen. Cadence
isn't the only one growling; attitude drips from these songs like
saliva from a rabid fang. These guys bring with them the feral
passion of the Detachment Kit, the sarcastic sneer of the
Panthers, ...Trail of Dead's chaotic rhythms and frenetic
guitars, and the Violent Femmes' blatant disregard for
such Victorian concepts as being "in key." And if you
don't like it, you can fuck off.
The album starts off with "Culture/Clash", a song that
channels the spirit of the Toys'R'Us theme song, complaining about
the evils of leaving childhood behind and entering the adult world.
With lyrics like, "If I trade in my youth/I better get something
in return," combined with screeching guitars and drums that
seem to lash out, you can almost see the band being dragged, kicking
and screaming, into adulthood. Along similar lines, the second
track "All Are Assassins" bangs out a vehement and yet
somewhat incoherent protest against living life as the waking
dead, which makes it the most nihilistic carpe diem anthem I've
I honestly have no idea what "We Call Police" is
about, but then again R.E.M. never wanted people to know
what their songs were about, either, and they did okay for themselves.
I do know that the song's persistent drums, and the recurring
phrase "perfect teeth," are hypnotic if not slightly
mind-numbing. But lest you begin to get bored, they end the
song with a loud sneeze, to snap you out of it.
Again, the fourth track is a bit difficult to understand, but
any song that starts with the lyrics, "Bad actor, I'd love
to watch you die," as "Horse With Blinders" does,
is bound to inject a little snarl into the listener's bloodstream.
You can hear the temper tantrum in the vocals and the fitful
guitars, and it kinda makes you want to throw a tantrum yourself.
Probably the most emo of all their songs, "The Electric
Slide" is a collage of the album's recurring themes of
struggle and frustration, juxtaposing a fatalistic resignation
and biting, jaded sense of humor in the lyrics against the rebellious,
angry energy of the music. The result is an inexplicably satisfying
and cohesive song that is dedicated to the proverbial young
and the restless: "This is for when your hometown feels
so foreign/Stuck in this place/This is for when your friends
seem like strangers/Stuck in this place."
The EP is now over, and my room is covered in a fine layer of
pillow stuffing. Cadence is sitting in the middle of it, panting,
with a satisfied smirk on her face and a feather stuck to her
lip. In doggie language, that's about the strongest recommendation
she could give, aside from humping the album's leg. So do what
my dog says and listen to The Narrator or she'll bite you on
the ass. They probably will too.
- Emily Strong
2. All Are Assassins
3. We Call Police
4. Horse With Blinders
5. The Electric Slide
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