Revised: NARC Analysis (Part 2)

Hi everyone, here’s Part 2. And as promised, click here for my transcription of NARC.


At the end of the first verse, the bass breaks the static harmonic feeling with a strong movement from D to C-natural to B, creating a sense of harmonic urgency and changing the mode from B aeolian to B phrygian.  The protagonist attempts to convince his lover that, because of his desire for her, likewise he is the only one she should desire.  With the rhythm guitar’s continuous offbeat first-inversion B-minor chords, the protagonist’s heartbeat speeds up as he pushes his lover to “tend to the engine” with him.


The first two lines of the chorus reveal another side of the protagonist.  These are the only lines of the song in which he does not address his lover directly, as he speaks of rather than to her.  Here he describes her finding a “lonely sound” and “waiting for time out there.”

“In the States a narc is an undercover narcotics agent, hence the manipulation – using leverage to say someone’s committed a crime. But [NARC] utilises that power in a really sleazy, sexual kind of way.” (Paul Banks)

Using Banks’ statement as a springboard, it is not a long jump from narc to stalker, i.e. a “sleazy” person who hides undercover in order to get what he wants.  Hence, it is possible that the protagonist is watching his lover from a vantage point of which she is unaware, like a spy.  As he views her from afar, he seeks out in her that which most concerns him, which is loneliness.

The tension created in the pre-chorus by the switch to B phrygian is replaced by a return to static B aeolian in the chorus section.  Even though the guitars are repeating a B-minor chord, the bass counteracts the feeling of tonic by playing G-A-E in the bass, in m. 31.  The most significant change texturally in the chorus is the absence of the hook; the choruses are the only places in NARC where a hook is not being repeated.

In this harmonic sound-scape, where tonic is always present but never felt as such, the protagonist sings of the loneliness and longings of his lover.  In m. 41 he bursts out in frustration and confusion on a much quicker succession of notes as he wonders, “is time turning around?”  The protagonist’s dizzy confusion expressed in these words is highlighted by the upper neighbor figure in the guitars.

Until next time,


~ by megwilhoite on December 14, 2009.

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