Harem Scarem may not be a household name, but in my house that certainly isn’t the case. I first heard of the Canadian melodic rockers ten years ago when I was 14 and I saw their music videos for Slowly Slipping Away and Honestly on TV, but it wasn’t until right around when I graduated high school that they made a serious impact on me. It wasn’t long before I got all of their albums and even ended up meeting them at their reunion concert two summers ago, sio needless to say, when they announced their new album, simply titled Thirteen (I’ll give you one guess as to how many albums they have) I was thrilled.
My fondness of Harem Scarem goes beyond simply liking their music though. When I really got in to their music, it was a tough time when I was between being a teenager and an adult, and the pressure was sort of getting to me. That summer was a summer of transitioning, having my first job, getting prepared to start college, having just said goodbye to many friends that I’ve seen only a select amount of times since, but one memory I have of that summer that makes the whole summer seem like it was a great summer is listening to Harem Scarem’s debut album over and over again.
The next few years were spent hunting down their albums, and it wasn’t easy. I actually only just finished the collection last winter by ordering their Ultra Feel album online. Their most noteworthy albums to check out are their self-titled album, Mood Swings, Weight of the World, Overload and Human Nature, but frankly for the most part you can’t go wrong with any album.
So getting back to the task at hand, their new album Thirteen starts exactly where they left off with 2008’s Hope. Opening track Garden of Eden brings that familiar sound a virtuosic Pete Lesperance guitar riff and Harry Hess‘s unmistakably voice, which hasn’t changed at all since the early 90’s. Garden of Eden doesn’t break any new ground for the band, but existing fans will be more than pleased, and should a new potential fan stumble upon the track, they’ll be listening to an ideal track that can sample what Harem Scarem are capable of.
Live It has a bit of a different sound compared to your typical Harem Scarem sound with its opening riff. It’s upbeat in a way that isn’t commonly heard by them, but its accompanied by the orchestral sounding vocal harmonies in its chorus that are so common for Harem Scarem. It’s that good feeling kind of song that the band is so good at making.
There is still a serious side to songs on the album, like on Early Warning Signs with its heavy drum beat and guitar riff. However, the chorus of the song brings forth another slightly more upbeat sound that contrasts the sound of the songs verses. Troubled Times borderlines a serious side with an upbeat side and does one hell of a job at balancing the two sides. Never Say Never has my favourite guitar riff of the album, and much like Early Warning Signs, it has serious sounding verses with an upbeat and in this case inspiring chorus.
There are, of course, a good amount of upbeat sounding songs, like Midnight Hours and Saints And Sinners. All I Need slightly differentiates itself from other upbeat tracks on the album because it has a very 90s feel to it. I’m not sure Harry and Pete were going for that when writing the song, but regardless it makes for a welcome change in sound on the album.
The closest thing Thirteen has to having a ballad is Whatever It Takes. Just about each Harem Scarem has had that signature ballad, some great and some just good. For instance, while it’s a classic by Harem Scarem fan standards, If There Was A Time isn’t my favourite ballad by the band. I’m more fond of songs like Rain or Hangin’ On, oh and This Ain’t Over. Whatever It Takes carries that tradition, showing Harry and Pete haven’t forgotten how to write a good ballad, but really no one expected them to forget how. It’s a little more powerful than your typical ballad, but it’s got that heart and melody that Harem Scarem fans wait to hear on each new album.
Harem Scarem don’t have a common way to end albums. Some like Hope and Big Bang Theory have ended with ballads, some have ended with guitar driven fast tracks like Mood Swings’ closing track, and some have just had a song that, aside from being a great song, have really no significance over other songs on the album. Such is the case with Thirteen‘s closing track Stardust. It may have a bit or of an epic sound to its harmonized vocals, and it would fall under the more serious sounding songs on the album, but any song from Thirteen could have ended this album. That’s the great thing about the band – they play by their own rules.
The more I listen to Thirteen the more I like it. I never expected to be disappointed – well okay there was that slight fear in the back of my mind – but really I knew I wouldn’t be. Thirteen isn’t a rebirth for the band, but it is something that existing fans will love while holding the capability of attracting new fans. Harem Scarem haven’t lost any part of what makes them the unique melodic rockers that they’ve always been.
“The Midnight Hours” – I wish I had a better reason for choosing this as the highlight, but truthfully I just find it to be the best song on the album. It has the most catchy chorus out of any song and it mixes some serious sounds in its verses but all in all it is a prime example of the feel good melodic rock that Harem Scarem have made throughout their career and it’s the prime example that shows they’ve still got it.
8 (Out of 10)
Garden Of Eden
Early Warning Signs
The Midnight Hours
Whatever It Takes
Saints And Sinners
All I Need
Never Say Never
The Midnight Hours (Acoustic Version)