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The Narrator
Youth City Fire
Flameshovel records
www.thenarrator.net


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 emo band."
"No, there's something to this. It makes me want to destroy this pillow."

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 heard yet.

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

Track Listing:

1. Culture/Counts
2. All Are Assassins
3. We Call Police
4. Horse With Blinders
5. The Electric Slide


 

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