Album Review: Harem Scarem – “Thirteen”
Formed in 1987, Harem Scarem overcame the potentially fatal affliction of hailing from Canada, and not being Bryan Adams, to release a string of triumphant upbeat hard rock albums which found them a dedicated fanbase, if not the stadium headliner status they arguably deserved. Nevertheless, the Japanese (who else?) took the band to their hearts and kept them ticking over, which begs the question, if every overlooked band is “Big in Japan”, just how much pocket money do Japanese kids get?
Thrust (ooh pardon) into the hair-metal genocide of the early 90s, Toronto’s Harem Scarem released a dozen albums (Mood Swings is an absolute masterpiece, go grab it now) of classy, inventive, harmonies before calling it a day in 2008. Thankfully for fanboys like myself though, they bowed to demand and reformed in 2012, before getting into the studio for comeback LP Thirteen.
So is it a case of thirteen, unlucky for some? Well, no. Thankfully these guys haven’t tried to reinvent their own wheel, therefore Thirteen at times sounds like a cut n’ paste collection of the finest moments of their own back catalogue. Everything that should be on a Harem Scarem record features, so we get more hooks than a meat packing factory, enough backing vocals to make Def Leppard blush, and a couple of lofty ballads (Whatever It Takes and Stardust), which should be safely ensconced in the back half of the setlist for the remainder of the bands career.
There’s the occasional misstep though, Live It sets off into country rock territory before Harry Hess & Co stomp their signature brand of monster chorus all over it, and at 38 minutes the LP feels just a little on the short side. Overall, Thirteen is a stride short of Harem Scarem at their very best (did I mention Mood Swings already? Oh, and Weight of the World too, well CDs are so cheap these days…), but as a ready reckoner for a great band you’ve probably over-looked, it does the job nicely.