❉ Take a deep dive into the ska-punks’ long-awaited self-titled debut.
Manchester’s Harijan, comprising Mike Corrigan (vocals), Ian Eccles (bass), Rick Hill (guitar), Andrew Williamson (guitar), Alex Dowson (trumpet), Robert Garstang (sax), Ewan Mackenzie (trombone), Joe Tatton (trombone) and Daniel Corrigan (drums), released their self-titled debut long player in December 2020, and following a recent interview in We Are Cult we take a deep dive into the album, with a track by track run-down.
The album opens with Curriculum Vitae. A crisp ska rhythm drops right in on the verse with Mike’s words right on the money with a tale of meeting dealers, hunger, boredom and struggling to survive on 20 quid for days. This is the life of many, forgotten folk. The chorus is big, anthemic almost. Huge grungy guitars arrive like a hurricane, necessitating a huge modern-metal vocal. Strong brass and a powerful rhythm section complete the sonic. Great start.
Paranoid is a swift tumble of a number, with a sprint of a verse and a jazz, scat-style vocal line, breaking into a more stretched-out delivery halfway through. Again, highly effective metal guitars are added which build the track up to a frenzy before returning to the tight as a nut verse. The theme is addiction, one that crops up in many of Mike Corrigan’s lyrics. The up and downside –
‘A simple plant that has seen me through the best times in my life,
But how it fucks me over when I want things done.’
There is no let up in the tempo with Box Packer. The brooding sonic landscape continues at a high pace, flashing images of every day working class existence with the lyrical theme of people getting well and truly used as part of the ‘system’, and being expected to make a life around that. The metal breakdowns are cleverly interspersed with ska verse and bass guitar runs.
Divide And Rule is a stand-out. Reggae music has always carried a revolutionary stance, passing heavy comment and straight-talking reality from the streets of Kingston to those of Brixton. The cut is the first to display a true reggae vibe, with a cool drop down beat in the verse, which is repeated adeptly throughout.
The album’s opening single, Downer was issued earlier in 2020. A big tune. The band’s ska-punk-metal formula is again present. The brass work is excellent, constant in the track behind its reflective pauses, filling out the huge chorus and bridge, and dexterously utilised in the snappy chorus. Catchy yet dark, carrying the lyric. Not easy when the theme is about addiction.
The edgy strut of Hallux Valgus is reminiscent of Watching The Detectives, spunky guitar working with the roots rhythm. Excellent percussive work. The cut holds its groove and doesn’t branch off into ska-punk or metal, and thus proving the band’s ability to execute their take on an English reggae styling. Nice.
The lyrics are very much the class divide –
‘Prepare for the terror of the working class.
Let’s not forget, what they enjoy is robbed of us.’
Decondition is an absolute banger. Slightly slower in its ska-punk pace. The brass riff leads the cut to Mike’s opening salvo, evolving into a theme of monotony and settling for it. It is melodic at times, with the chord changes giving the cut a different flavour.
The eastern flavour of the guitar riff to SMS paves the way to another slightly less-frenetic number. More laid back, with a danceable bounce to the beat. A dark slice of ska-punk, steady in its groove. With a lovely touch of Augustus Pablo-esq melodica thrown in. Incidentally, SMS = Simultaneous Mischievous Smiles.
Airhead is an interesting number, for the reasons outlined earlier. Musically, it is up there. The guitar work grabs the listener’s ear later in the track, with grunge and metal passages pushing it on from the slow, English reggae opening. It turns into quite an epic number, holding on to the passionate hatred of liberal ruling classes to the end.
The second single lifted from the album is Skint. A lively ska-punk number, with the key ingredients of the genre very much on show. Highly danceable, and a favourite of Harijan’s live shows, again with a powerful heavy metal bridge section.
Bees ‘N E’s floats from the speakers, its reggae rhythm coloured by brass in question-and-answer form with Mike’s drug reference lyrics. The cut cleverly drops into a more ferocious sonic right at the end, allowing the number to maintain its steady groove until then.
Portland Street is aggressive on its start line and then pacey from the off. Popping bass in the verse and a full band chorus provide a great backing, with lyrics of escape, weekends and desperation.
Harijan closes with Synchronicity. A reflective lyric, possibly written with the benefit of experience, drive the tune. The minor key crescendo intro and breakdown assist this very feel with the solid bounce of the beat keeping the growing band’s identity intact. Nice one.
Harijan, is out now on TNS Records and It is credit to the band and to their late guitarist, Tim Gray, that it is such a strong, poignant and relevant release. Get 2021 off to a positive start and tune in.
❉ ‘Harijan’ by Harijan (TNS Records) is available from Bandcamp as Digital Album, RRP £7.00. Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more. Look out for review in We Are Cult shortly.
❉ Paul Matts is a writer from Leicester, England. His first novella, ‘Donny Jackal’, a kitchen-sink coming of age drama set in English punk rock suburbia in 1978, is out now both in paperback and as an E-book. His fiction has been featured in Punk Noir Magazine, Brit Grit Alley and Unlawful Acts. Paul also writes articles on music, in particular on the punk and new wave movement, and is a regular contributor for We Are Cult, Punkglobe, Razur Cuts and Something Else magazines. See https://paulmatts101.wordpress.com/ for more details, and to subscribe for updates.
❉ Photo credits: Harijan playing Garlic Bread Club retro bar, 2019. (Hold My Pint Photography) © Image subject to copyright.