The United Kingdom isn’t always filled with clean-cut indie groups like Bloc Party, Editors, and Franz Ferdinand. All these groups managed to help spawn off this fabricated UK-emo thing that was huge and became a major part of the English’s impact on Untied States music in the last decade. These bands became so big so quick they almost forced younger music fans to forget that the UK is also responsible for Queen and the Sex Pistols. But then they also brought us Coldplay, so really it’s all a mess.
Anyways, this is all beside the point. The point really is that when a UK band wants to get down and dirty with their sound this late into the millennium, they have every opportunity to do it. In the calculated world of indie guttural rock and roll, it rarely gets as downright swampy as Harper. Clean production be damned, who needs production at all? Harper pulls more from the sounds of Cloud Nothings and Japandroids from the US. These groups are masterful in their ability to deliver hook-friendly rock through the guise of down-tuned guitars, live vocals, and rough almost absent production. On a more classical level, they take a whole hell of a lot more from the Kinks or the Libertines than they do, say, the Pet Shop Boys. Which is all fine, because when it comes to pop music from the UK, there is a whole lot more out there than that one band every knows.
Harper is clearly influenced from their garage rock brethrens. Mono no Aware is a four track release from the band that is over as soon as it begins. But you want to spin the playlist (yes, playlist, this thing belongs on my doubled stacked vinyl) all over again. Bringing Me Down has the best jam-packed guitar work on the mini-album. The group barely leaves time for the tune to breathe which is just perfect. This is punk rock for a whole new generation. It is by no means hardcore styled. All clean vocals, all big guitars without the abrasive yelping and double kick drums and breakdowns that plague heavy contemporary music. Sometimes by being loud, you have to get quieter.
The opening song is Cast in Stone, and the band attempts rather well an Black Sabbath-esque opening that is fallible though successful. But when the vocals kick in, you get the sense that this is a grungier Queens of the Stone Age- a drawling vocal effort and somberly abrasive guitar that seems mad just as much as it is depressed. Harper makes music with such intentional angst it could be seen as parody. Fortunately for them, the songwriting is so well done and the ethos of their angry simple rock sound is oddly endearing. It makes the group’s song structures by no means overbearing- a throwback to the days where a guitar was a GUITAR and song mixing was boring and a keyboard was a thing that your little brother played with.
Ryan Merkel is a cool writer guy and contributor all over the internet, from blogs on music to magazines about music to sites about playing music. He is currently founder of SunState Investing and is head editor of the music entertainment magazine, CultureTease. He has written two novels, and is currently working on a third full-length novel, surprisingly, not about music. His novel “Splatter the Noise” earned accolades for independent publishing. Be sure to check out: www.sunstateinvesting.com
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