The steps that Harker have taken in the four years as a band have been truly exceptional. What originally began as an acoustic project for Mark Boniface has since morphed into a truly formidable punk outfit, particularly on their 2015 EP A Lifetime Apart, their most fully-formed effort to date that marked them out as a name not to be taken lightly within UK punk. And with their debut full-length No Discordance seeing them moving even further from their folksier roots and embracing the heartland sound that bands like The Menzingers have made such a force to be reckoned with, this could easily see Harker cement themselves as true greats within their craft.
And yes, that might be a lofty benchmark to aspire to, particularly when further reference points include Jimmy Eat World and The Get Up Kids. At this stage, Harker mightn’t quite be at the level of any of those bands at their absolute peak, but there’s no shame in that whatsoever, especially considering that No Discordance is a truly great album in its own right, the sort of no-frills punk album that only needs the music itself to impress. Granted, there mightn’t be a lot more than that anyway, but Harker don’t really need anything else to take what they’ve got and run far with it.
If there was a “fault” to pick with No Discordance though (and that’s using the term incredibly loosely), it would be here as, for anyone whose even remotely familiar with punk in this vein, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Rustic, melodically-charged guitars dominate with production that keeps to minimal interference and Boniface’s vocal tone that’s reminiscent of any number of heartbroken American troubadours. That’s really it though, and if that’s the extent of the faults with No Discordance, there’s little to really complain about, particularly when Harker have virtually mastered the sound already. 300 Cigarettes is exactly what a single should be like in its rollicking, pulse-quickening melody, while songs like Station Approach and Drive At Night represent a near-perfect approximation of the heartland sound with an added slice of British storminess and grit.
It’s about as simple as it gets, but as with most of this sort of thing, Harker have found a way to bypass the majority of criticisms that can made and replace them with glorious passion and gusto. It might have a similar focus on timeless lyrical sentiment as its influences, but that’s hardly a bad thing as long as the hooks are towering and the melodies are kept in check; hell, with a slight drop in pace and cascades of millennial whoops, Caught Up borders on arena-rock in a way that feels so much more empowered and vital than what the genre is currently associated with. And with the rest of the album packaged with tracks like the Menzingers-style jam Black Dog or the quicker punk hit of Sometimes Dead Is Better, and you’ve got an album with barely any filler, and that is able to make use of a fairly limited resource in spectacular fashion.
It goes to show how Harker have used a lack of real invention to their advantage, and rather than just a cut-and-paste job, there’s real heart and passion that goes into No Discordance, and the results show in earnest. Already it’s easy to predict that this will go criminally underlooked because it isn’t the biggest or flashiest release, but with such a clear core of passion and music-for-the-love-of-music creation here, Harker deserve a lot better. Don’t sleep on this album; you’re unlikely to find a UK punk album that hits this hard for a while now.
For fans of: The Menzingers, Jimmy Eat World, The Get Up Kids
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘No Discordance’ by Harker is released on 9th February on Disconnect Disconnect / Shield Recordings / Wiretap Records / Fond Of Life.