Harmony No Harmony is 10 years old!
01. Bread and Circuses
02. Holloway Prison Blues
03. After the Rush Hour
04. Plan B
05. Carthago Est Delenda
06. To Whom It May Concern
07. Living the Dream
08. Margot Kidder
09. Murder and Create
10. Achilles Lung
11. Bovine Spungiform Economics
12. Father My Father
13. Engine Driver
14. Harmony No Harmony
Depending on who you ask, politics in music is either the most visceral and emotive subject (after religion), or the absolute, phoned-in worst. Indeed, for every Refused there’s a Hacktivist, and having opinions on The Man – one way or another – is no recipe for success.
UK-based five-piece Million Dead – named for a lyric in Refused’s The Shape of Punk to Come closer “The Apollo Programme Was a Hoax” (“Suck on my words for a while; choke on the truth of a million dead”) – were slap bang in the former camp. That the tenth birthday of their second and final album Harmony No Harmony falls in the wake of the latest general election – always a time of discontent and reflection – is incredibly fitting, and a perfect opportunity to discuss the still-relevant themes.
From the get-go, Harmony No Harmony draws on the ire and malcontent of the proletariat. The title of opening track “Bread And Circuses” references the writings of Roman satirical poet Juvenal, and the two cheap and trivial concessions those in power made to the empire’s poor to win their votes. The lyrics sneer at over-priced visitor attractions and the erosion of freedom; we’re so pleased to escape from the ignominy of our daily grind that we’re placated with gaudy trinkets, the beauty of life and art atrophies, and we abandon the betterment of ourselves because it’s more difficult than the alternative.
Disillusionment with the mundanity of 21st century life – days spent staring at your computer screen working for the benefit of faceless corporations (“To Whom It May Concern“), lacking the adventure of the pioneering generations (“After The Rush Hour”), and lamenting the soul-sucking nature of the city (“Carthago Est Delenda“) – is a theme that overarches the whole record. In lesser hands this may have come out half-cocked, but the eloquence and acerbic wit of frontman Frank Turner imbues everything with a deeply personal melancholy – but it’s clear his spirit hasn’t been crushed. Harmony No Harmony is beautiful and sentimental in the fashion of all great poetry.
What really elevates this album is the truly outstanding songwriting, and the overall sonic quality. As Refused advocated ‘New Noise’, so Million Dead answered; this is punk in its purest form, mixing brashness and dissonance with melody and sensibilities accessible to all. For every “Plan B” – a furious blast of corrosive hardcore in less than two minutes – there’s a mournful ballad (“Margot Kidder“) or a brightly coloured and canorous rock number (“Holloway Prison Blues“).
It’s an rare quality to be able to speak to so many, and to be honest they never really did – they were only together for five years – but as the saying goes, the flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long; it’s more that they just never got the chance. That Frank’s solo career has reached such Wembley-packing heights is testament to how well his ideas resonate with the public, and I’m truly thankful that the spirit of Million Dead lives on in him, as it’s as important as ever.