Truly great pop songs do not require a cheery outlook in order to work, nor do they pander to expectations of syrupy sweet easy-listening. Rather, the best pop music is a matter of refinement and pure intention, of dialing groove to melody so that the two might puncture the malaise of everyday living in unison, revealing some brief, sober truth about our shared human condition.
On their third LP, Moments of Clarity (Run for Cover), Narrow Head have achieved precisely this feat. Traversing the depths of massive, churning riffs, often distorted to the point of violence, bouncing, lock-grooved rhythms, and crystalline, gorgeously constructed hooks, the Houston-based outfit puts on a masterclass in the art of writing songs that match the pain, pleasure, and confusion of modern living. Each track is sentimental without being precious, heavy without unnecessary griminess, pop-forward without letting the listener off the hook easy: these songs ask for some form of hurt or desire to be paid back to them in return, some promise that the listener is putting equal skin put into the game. Moments of Clarity reflects this matured sense of purpose.
Longtime Narrow Head fans will undoubtedly still recognize the band’s signature marriage of brutality and grace, and many of the core themes of desolation, loss, and self-medication that the band established on their prior records Satisfaction (2016, re-issued by Run for Cover in 2021) and 12th House Rock (2020, Run for Cover) continue to haunt the edges of Moments of Clarity. All the same, Moment of Clarity rises above the darkness with a sense of elegant repose, like a butterfly-winged figure-skater skimming the hardened rim of a freezing black lake. While not exactly optimistic in outlook, these songs simmer with a certain life affirming desire, a burning passion to transcend pure cynicism and self-destruction, if only for even a few seconds.