Narrow Head – ‘Moments of Clarity’

By Ash Bebbington

Those of us that can remember the 90s might be horrified to realise that it ended almost a quarter of a century ago. A decade that produced some of the greatest and most beloved rock music of all time is officially vintage.

Whether you’re a 90s kid, or just love the music from that time, Narrow Head’s latest release, ‘Moments of Clarity’, is a warm blanket of a record that transports you back to simpler times. It’s packed with sleazy grit and melody, while also having a slacker sensibility that typifies most of the great 90s bands. Additionally, the cover art just oozes old school, and feels like the sort of thing you could find flipping through CD jewel cases at your local record store in years gone by.

You could easily compare the sound of this record to other bands from that era – Smashing Pumpkins and Deftones being the obvious ones that stand out – but Narrow Head have their own unique style that borrows from the classics while bringing their own personality into the mix. The guitars have a delightfully warm fuzzy tone that complements the laid-back vibe of the record. This, mixed with brilliant, catchy vocal melodies make for a lovely listen that is perfect on good headphones in the sunshine.

The record is more mellow than its predecessor, the superb ‘12th House Rock’ from 2020, and is all the better for it. While that record was pacier and heavier, ‘Moments of Clarity’ is a snapshot of the Texan five-piece at their melodic best. But that’s not to say it’s without bite. There are plenty of heavier moments to offset the more delicate sections.

The record opens on a particularly melodic note with ‘The Real’ – a slow and sweet opener that has hooks for days without being overbearing. Title track ‘Moments of Clarity’ and ‘Sunday’ follow a similar sound, with lush sonics and an almost dreamlike quality at points. The latter track throws a curveball late on, however, with the use of synths – a welcome addition to the band’s musical repertoire.

‘Trepanation’ marks the record’s first real mood shift, and is one of the heavier tracks, built around a chunky low riff. Lyrically too, it’s a much darker song. As the title suggests it’s about the antiquated practice of trepanation; a now thoroughly debunked process of boring holes in the skull to help ease mental health problems.

These darker moments are rare, however, and the record trends back towards a much more melodic sound for the next few songs with ‘Breakup Song’, ‘Caroline’ and ‘The World Sunday’ being particularly chilled out.

The album takes yet another tonal shift towards the end, with tracks like ‘Fine Day’, ‘Gearhead’, and ‘Flesh & Solitiude’ being on the heavier side. ‘Gearhead’ in particular is probably the heaviest song, featuring ferocious riffs, screamed vocals, and arguably one of the album’s best choruses. There’s also a fun bait and switch at the end where you think the song is coming to a quiet end then the riff comes back in with a bang. On a record that is notable for its melodic style, this track adds a nice bit of variety to keep things interesting.

Another late-album track, ‘Flesh & Solitude’ sounds like a full-blown early Deftones song in the style of ‘Around the Fur’. Vocally, singer and guitarist Jacob Duarte sounds like Chino Moreno, especially in the quieter vocal lines. ‘The Comedown’ – the longest and most melodic track on the record – feels like it should be an album closer, but it isn’t. With an almost dreamlike quality, this would’ve been the perfect way to wrap up a stunning record.

The actual album closer ‘Soft to Touch’ – is by far the most experimental song on the record; relying heavily on synths, it sounds completely different to the rest. While it’s a fun track, you can’t help but feel it would’ve sat better somewhere in the middle of the record, especially as ‘The Comedown’ would’ve been such a good note to finish on.

On ‘Moments of Clarity’, Narrow Head take a softer approach to their stellar songwriting prowess and irresistible 90s alt-rock throwback charm to create their finest record to date. Whether you had your musical awakening in the 1990s or not, you owe it to yourself to check out ‘Moments of Clarity’, one of 2023’s finest records so far.

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