I had heard of HAREM SCAREM before but never a single note from any of their previous works, believe it or not. So when new album Thirteen (out December 9 in the USA via Frontiers Records) showed up at my door I was like, “Uhhhh…OK?” and it just sat there for a while. Then for some reason on Saturday night I picked it up and popped it in. After hearing one song I wanted to slap the shit out of myself for sitting on such a great record! I immediately took it to the car for a late shopping run where I knew it would get the true test, and it passed with flying colors. From the warm, raspy vocals of Harry Hess to the hard-edged melodies of Pete Lesperance’s guitars I was utterly enthralled.
“Garden of Eden” showcases some magnificent AOR leanings that had my antennae buzzing immediately, with a big ol’ hook just made for driving with the top down. “Live It” has a bit of boogie to the verses with more straightforward rock on the chorus. My favorite from jump was “Early Warning Signs” which has a thick, rich guitar line and a maple syrup-tasty chorus that I’ve been singing nonstop and air-conducting to for two days now. Speaking of vocals, man oh man the harmonies on “The Midnight Hours” are so sweet I got six cavities listening. Slowing things down for a few, piano-led “Whatever It Takes” proves there’s nothing this band can’t do, from arena rocker to poignant ballad.
Serious guitar licks abound in “Saints and Sinners”, Lesperance letting his fingers do the walking to Rockville and back. “All I Need” has a light feel that totally belies the hard rock devotion in the chorus, and “Troubled Times” is the most anthemic number this disc has to offer and is right behind “Early Warning Signs” as my go-to. Hell, the entire A&GS household has been singing this one as well! You can really feel the Melodic Rock tone of a song like “Never Say Never” that will probably be in future setlists for years to come. Closer “Stardust” is a little different from the rest of the album. It’s another somewhat slow tune, but the lyrics are very empowering and positive. Hess sings “You’re never gonna realize what you’re ultimately worth” in such a way that it might make you take stock of where you are in life and see what you can do to make it better.
I don’t know how this group slipped past me for so long, but what I do know is this: HAREM SCAREM are one terrific band, and with Thirteen they have given us an album that is perfect for not only driving around town, but also sitting on the back deck with some friends and a cooler full of beer. And with nary a bad track I guarantee you’ll let this one spin over and over, as I’ve been doing.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Garden of Eden”, “Early Warning Signs”, “Troubled Times”, “The Midnight Hours”, “All I Need”