Politically conscious Leeds group Narcs provide an energetic take on the English indie scene with their debut album A Thinking Animal. Sporting a thick West Yorkshire accent, frontman Wilko delivers an aggressive performance throughout, backed by a near-constant cacophony of distorted instruments and thumping drums. The album opens with a rare moment of calm as the soft guitar of ‘Drains’ begins, only to quickly build up to the unrelenting indie-meets-hardcore sound that sets both the tone of the album and the group apart from their more pop-oriented contemporaries.
The obvious anger that the group is attempting to express through their heavy sound comes from the firm political views which the lyrics illustrate, with tracks like ‘Bullingdon Boys’ making it easy to see where they stand even when the vocals are lost in the relentless noise. Although their philosophy seems to amount to little more than ‘bloody Tories’, the decision to create something politically charged is an interesting one as the anger displayed in tracks like ‘Mile Die’ means the band is closer to a 90’s post-hardcore sound than anything contemporary branded ‘indie’.
The album isn’t without its weak points, however, one of which being ‘Head Boy Sonnet’- a reasonably middle of the road track culminating in vocalist Wilko shouting repeatedly about the privileged class who have ‘the very best schools, and backgrounds’ which is somehow worse to listen to than simply read. The following track ‘Empathy the Dog’ also provides groans, sounding like an Arctic Monkeys pastiche made by an angsty younger brother.
Whilst the record isn’t flawless, there is an impressive breadth of material within it. ‘Soak’, in contrast to the constant wall of sound found in most of the other tracks, sounds like Bends era Radiohead, for example. The ambitious ‘Pilot Light’ closes the album with a meandering crescendo, climaxing in probably the album’s heaviest moment, with a minute or so of vocals that could be cut and pasted into a skramz album.
Ultimately, Narcs haven’t released a classic, but the breath of fresh air they give the indie genre and the direction they are choosing to take with their aggressive sound is one of the more interesting things in the music scene at the moment. Even with the soapbox politics, the group have made a solid album with ambition and even if it falls slightly short of the mark the fact the group are innovating (or at the very least amalgamating) new sounds, meaning this is presumably not the last we are likely to see of Narcs.