Posted on January 8th, 2009 (5:29 pm) by Joe McCarthy

Once in a while there is a band that comes along and immediately blows you away with their absolute inventiveness; Narrows isn't one of those bands. This isn't to say that the band isn't talented or inventive, they do manage to fuse the sounds of math-rock and instrumental prog-rock and make it sound pleasing, even to ears that aren't huge on either genre, but at first the band's influences seem to be worn right on their sleeves and that there really isn't anything spectacular or grabbing within the music.

Yet, after a few intense listens, not only does the music begins to sound different, it begins to feel different. No longer do the songs seem to rely as heavily on those bouncy, staccato guitar lines that have become so familiar within the world of math-rock. Especially on songs like “54321” those same guitar lines feel more textural, laying down a soundscape for the lower end of things to move and create fascinating climaxes, the kind that leave you flailing in time with the music (not the “OMG! That was epic, dude” kind by the way). Everything about the album seems more subtle, yet more clear and revealed as you give it repeated listens. It is this paradox that makes the album difficult to get a handle on at first.

Perhaps the strongest, and definitely the most immediate moment on the album is “Uninverse”. The instruments creep in, adding layers until the main groove in the song is laid down. Then suddenly and unexpectedly, the song shifts. It suddenly plods into a pounding section and then a series of flowing guitar parts. The song then continues to alternate between these staccato parts and pounding build-ups. While the premise of the song can be understood after the first time the two sections repeat, it never seems boring because there is enough variation to what is going on in the A part of the song to keep things interested over repeated listens. Even the return of the pounding B section manages to catch you off guard every time that it reappears.

While at some points Narrows seems to be taking off and doing great things, there are other times that the album just falls flat. The final two tracks on the album, “Moving Bodies” and “Tedinverse” are largely forgettable and basically serve to undermine the greatness of the songs that preceded them. “Moving Bodies” would not have been bad as an instrumental track, but the vocals the song down and cheapen it. The final song, “Tedinverse”, is a return to form and is comparable to the earlier songs on the album, but it doesn't make sense as a closer. The track leaves you wanting more from the album and waiting for another song to hit your speakers, which it never does. I suppose that this anticipation could be a positive thing, but it ends up being the biggest drawback to the album.

Had these last two tracks been cut, it would have managed to make the album feel like it was a more complete work. This is not only because I find the last two tracks to be slightly weaker than the rest of the album, but it would have concluded the album on “Manatee”, the most logical closer for the album. So, really the problem with the album may not actually be the final tracks, but the ordering of the album. When running through the album after moving “Manatee” to the end, everything seems to come to a more satisfying conclusion. It makes it feel like whatever it was that Narrows wanted to say with them album was said rather than leaving the listener with a feeling that something is missing from the album.

Yet, prior to the MP3 Age this sort of critique of an album would not have been possible without a whole lot of needle lifting, fast forwarding, or pressing of the next track button on your discman, so really perhaps this criticism is unfounded and simply based on my own bizarre and unnecessary desires to find flaws in something that is definitely enjoyable.

The most unfortunate thing about this album is that Narrows have been on hiatus since early 2008, making the possibility of more material seem unlikely, and based on few moments of excellence that were glimpsed on this album, that next album could have been something worth raving about.

Track list

1. Shining (6:53)
2. 54321 (5:56)
3. Memory Lane (8:19)
4. Uninverse (5:50)
5. Manatee (8:30)
6. Moving Bodies (6:56)
7. Tedinverse (5:49)


Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

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