Written by: MAK on 02/12/2020 03:23:51

If any band epitomises the early years of TNS it is perhaps Harijan. In the mid-2000s Harijan became an iconic band in the growing Manchester scene with their distinctive mix of skacore, reggae and punk. Harijan is regularly lauded by the likes of Random Hand and Faintest Idea and had a huge musical impact on many bands who have been born in the North-West until the band went a hiatus in 2010. They then re-emerged in 2019 for the popular DIY weekender, Manchester Punk Festival and to record their long-awaited debut album.

A common feature for plenty of bands that are inspired by ska and reggae is that the overall tone is rather uplifting and upbeat. Harijan throws that out the window, for some of the darkest ska/skacore vibes I have heard. It makes a nice change and doesn’t really feel out of place either. There is a real gritty atmosphere lingering right from the start with “Curriculum Vitae”, which shows similarities to Capdown and Inner Terrestrials; combining crunch chords with dubby upstrokes. Vocally, frontman Mike switches between coarse croons and some melodic reggae-like cleans. Even throwing in some shouts for a heavier segment towards the end. Throughout the track, the brass mostly lingers in the background as an added flavour, before coming to the forefront with some pulsing melodies in the bridge. It’s a steady, angst-ridden opener, that sets up “Paranoid” to hit your ears with a bit more energy. The upstrokes and brass section is almost played at double time, to entice some serious skanking”, at the same time the vocals switch between fast-paced lyrical spits and the same gravely like harsh croons.

“Box Packer” comes in more as a dark, melodic punk meets gruff-punk inspired track with snippets of reggae hooks and explodes into something a little more hard-hitting. It’s gritty, but rather catchy, showing similarities to Wonk Unit and Aerial Salad as a more modern example, with lyrics of every man life and talking about box packers who earn £4 an hour with kids to support. “Divide and Rule” relies more on the chill reggae vibes in the verse to start with, contrasting brilliantly with the heavy, chugging skacore type chorus. Then out of nowhere, a fast-paced, brass fuelled ska-punk segment that brings the track to life. “Downer” is a mixed package with more melodically gruff singing on top if bouncy brass hooks and heavier ska-punk tendencies, while “Hallux Valgus” is outright calming reggae, a nice slow-burner lingering in the middle of the album with some plucky guitar licks, steady upstrokes and beautiful horn melodies.

The variety of inspirations is fresh as Harijan throw songs that blend gloomy tones with some that pack energy and make you want to dance. “Airhead” for one that utilises the slow, plodding nature of reggae in the intro to make the uptempo ska-punk impact harder when it hits and gets the foot tapping. Then when the crunchy grooves kick in, the adrenaline is already there for you to want to rock out and start circle pits. It’s an example of a track that just has it all, with huge brass hooks to boot. Usually, horns are what I’m drawn to first in ska and finally, we have a track in which they truly capture my focus. “Skint” then follows suit by showcasing the diverse sound Harijan have with more captivating brass melodies layer on top of a speedy, shred-fuelled skate-punk inspired bridge placed in the middle of perhaps the only track on the album with a “happy” sounding ska-punk segment.

There is a noticeable formula emerging by the time you hit “Bees ‘N E’s”, in which we have some relaxing reggae ambience, which soon vibrantly cracks into something a bit more skank worthy. However “Portland Street” has zero chill, it’s all killer adrenaline-fuelled ska-punk with a strong caffeine kick. Mikes now distinctively gruff vocals tease us in for a massive brass-filled dance-fest. Laden with more of his faster lyrical spits and heavy riffs. It’s an outstanding skacore inspired anthem that one again throws back to the likes of Capdown. For me, this is the best track on the album. It leaves “Synchronicity” sounding a little lacklustre as an album closer in comparison. A chilled out reggae track that is nice in its own right with some epic brass hooks at the end. But I can’t help feeling “Portland Street” would have been a more perfect end.

Clocking in at just over an hour long. I’m not sure I’ve heard a ska album that is quite as long. But listening to it, you don’t really notice the length, there is little filler when there is so much variance. Even though this is my first real taste of Harijan, you feel a massive throwback with songwriting, styles that truly peaked in the mid-00s, certain elements reek of that era in a good way. This isn’t like any ska-inspire album I’ve heard before, It feels unique and familiar at the same time with similarities to the likes of Capdown and King Prawn. None of the varying elements overpowers the other. It isn’t dominating as a reggae album or a skacore album. The added influences of alternative rock, gruff and skate punk, the heavy and the melodic vibes counteract each other in a sublime manner. The dirty tone along with the terraced housing artwork, it’s raw, along with some strong political vibes that aren’t overly “in your face” feels relatable and down to earth.


Download: Portland Street, Airhead, Box Packer
For The Fans Of: Capdown, King Prawn, ClayPigeon
Listen: Facebook

Release date 18.12.2020
TNS Records

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