Revised: NARC Analysis (Part 1)

Hello all,

An email from reader Chris has inspired me to create this series of posts, in which I will offer, section-by-section, my analysis of NARC (Paul Banks on NARC; The Lyrics; Verse 1; Pre-Chorus; Chorus; Verse 2; Pre-Chorus 2 and Chorus 2; Bridge; Verse 3; Coda; Interpol’s sound for NARC; Summary of my interpretation of NARC).

For those of you who have the original paper on NARC I wrote back in 2004, I urge you to take a look at these posts; I have revised and refined quite a bit of it!
So, here goes Part 1 (I’ll post my transcription of NARC with Part 2):

Paul Banks on NARC

“NARC…involves insinuations of forcibly getting someone to do something.  It’s a pretty seedy song,” and “NARC…[is] a very typical love and relationships oriented song but with a filter of corruption and manipulation.  It’s not a healthy depiction of a relationship.”

The Lyrics

Paul Banks has often said that his lyrics are abstractions on situations that rarely reflect his own experiences, and he often uses poetic devices to communicate his meaning indirectly. For example, in the first pre-chorus Banks uses synecdoche when he sings “Cause it’s just you, me, and this wire,” apparently referring to the telephone line.  By using “wire” to mean a telephone connection, Banks is not only highlighting the near-physical connection it provides between the protagonist of this song and his supposed lover, it also implies the protagonist is not actually speaking to the lover, but has wire-tapped the phone line—like police narcs do.  Banks is setting a scene, and the form, which is verbal manipulation, reflects the content, which consists of an illicit exchange that I believe is the focus of these lyrics.

Verse 1:

The initial two-bar guitar hook sets up an harmonically static sonic background for the first verse.  As the bass and vocals enter, B aeolian is gradually established.  Reflecting the static sonic background, the protagonist makes demands of his lover with no indication that she is satisfying or responding to him.  The vocals are sung in a disjunct, robotic manner on the notes of B minor 7 chord (also being played by the rhythm guitar) emphasizing the lack of progress he is making.

The “seedy” feel comes across with the command to an anonymous person to touch her thighs.  He continues his demands, using synecdoche for the first time when he sings “sweat” to refer to some sort of physical exertion.  The next line refers to the person’s “mysteries moving in the sun,” a metaphor for said person’s private thoughts or parts becoming known to him.

The four-bar repeated bass line, G to F-sharp to D to B, is a dynamic and sensual line, and octave leaps and bouncy syncopations break up the monotony of repetition.  The effect of the bass guitar’s contribution to the first verse is to keep it human and fluid amidst the robotic and static music of the other instruments.
That’s all for now—stay tuned for Part 2!  And feel free to comment!

Love from,



~ by megwilhoite on October 30, 2009.

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