Die! Die! Die! – Harmony

Die! Die! Die! have subtlety re-calibrated their sound for their fourth album, says EDWARD SHARP-PAUL.

Few play as hard, and tour as hard, as this Dunedin three-piece. While Harmony is a lot more measured than the helter-skelter likes of 2005’s Die! Die! Die! and 2006’s Locust Weeks EP, it’s not exactly a back-porch effort.

The lineage of Harmony can be traced back to post-punk luminaries such as Wire and Public Image Limited; bands who took the volume and aggression of punk and stripped it of its increasingly restrictive conventions, instead exploring punk’s outer horizons. (Oh, and compare the copyright-flouting drum groove of Get Back to PiL’s Four Enclosed Walls. ) As with their forebears, noise is an abstraction, a compositional element, as opposed to a thing that happens when you turn the amp up to 11. This, however, doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of kicking out the jams in a pretty serious way.

‘Oblivious, Oblivion’ bursts out of the blocks with a gnarled, warp-speed wah riff. When singer/guitarist Andrew Wilson gets around to hollering “Oblivion!” in the chorus, it’s with mischievous glee rather than anger, like a kid with a matchbox. Arrangement-wise, the song represents the Harmony template: propulsive drums, sturdy, chugging bass, and Wilson raising hell on guitar. Michael Logie’s bass deserves special mention, as it is the ferocity of his attack and the range of his playing that affords Wilson the leeway to experiment.

“It’s Die! Die! Die!’s ability to bury a variety of moods in that cacophony that makes Harmony such a magnetic album.”

While they unquestionably pack a wallop, it’s Die! Die! Die!’s ability to bury a variety of moods in that cacophony that makes Harmony such a magnetic album. Of course, there’s plenty of “fuck you” attitude, courtesy of Wilson’s snotty howl, but so too are there more nuanced emotional states explored in songs like ‘Trinity’ and ‘Seasons Revenge’, arriving just as the shock and awe tactics start to wear thin.

‘Trinity’ manages to combine bittersweet jangle with scorching dissonance, confirming Wilson’s contention that “life’s not black and white”. Likewise, ‘Seasons Revenge’, maintains the intensity while further dropping the tempo, with Michael Prain’s martial snare pattern struggling to stay afloat on an ocean of churning guitars.

Of course, being from Dunedin (not to mention being alumni of the label), Die! Die! Die! are contractually obliged to reference the Flying Nun sound, and they fulfil their duties via some choice melodic lines in the likes of ‘Oblivious, Oblivion’ and the strangely serene locomotion of ‘Changeman’.

Harmony is a fine album, and a subtle re-calibration of the Die! Die! Die! sound. They’ve set a hell of a pace thus far, but their restless spirit hasn’t yet let them down.