Harem Scarem - Thirteen

Harem Scarem Thirteen cover
Harem Scarem
Frontiers Music Srl
The fact that a previously really big band, at least in their native Canada, had to go through so many trials and tribulations and to split up and reform and go from being signed on a multinational to doing albums via “pledges” and barely managing to do so, (but ultimately they did reach their requested amount – so that’s the important thing) is telling that the record industry is dying and that people are hardly any more interested in music, either opting for hearing The same song and dancing to the same tunes, of the same bands that year after year seem to be headlining the same festivals, in a scene that feels “stale” and “dying” or streaming a song and waiting for content to be delivered right to their face, via platforms, that are obviously controlled by media conglomerates. (Who seemingly will manage to kill everything by introducing unsustainable business models, which only benefit them).
But going back to Harem Scarem... their debut and “Mood Swings” are undeniably amongst the classics of the genre and even if the band never managed to become the next Bon Jovi or Def Leppard, that was hardly because they lacked the chops or the songs. Both Lesperance and Hess had it in spades and through the years, even with all the ups and down they have continued to soldier forward, no matter what.
So how does “Thirteen” measure up to the bands previous efforts then?! I’d dare say, after, doing a bit of a useless exercise (other than reclaiming the rights to their most popular album maybe – by re-recording it and re-registering their publishing) with “Mood Swings II”, they seem to have recaptured some of their early mojo a bit, but there’s also the general carelessness and pop mentality of the “Rubber” albums that seemed to be a bit of a pivotal point in the bands career, with a lot of people turning their backs on them. They seem, unphased and do what they feel like doing and it kinda works well for the most part.
Opener “Garden of Eden” is a typical rocking “Scarem” insta-classic, with a peachy chorus, that’s commercial-a-plenty. Nothing wrong here!
“Live It” is a rocker, but has this dixie, sort of vibe, that make it have a sort of silly commercial appeal, that might, work well in the states, I suppose!
“Early Warning Signs” is also catchy, but has a nice strong vibe, strong riff and feels like HS, in their prime.
“The Midnight Hours” is more laid back, and has a very nice chorus that’s very reminiscent of the band’s early works, beautiful solo work as well, as expected... but, let’s point it out too...
“Whatever It Takes” is a predictable ballad and I am sorry to report, that it’s not the best they have done. It’s decent, but it doesn’t hold a candle up to the bands classic ballads…
“Saints and Sinners” has a playful guitar riff per-mutating through it courtesy of Lesperance and another chorus that hits home immediately as does Lesperance’s solo.
“All I Need” is more modern, poppy and melodic, but it ain’t too bad for that. Its chorus with its nice harmony more than compensates for it, being rather plain.
“Troubled Times” is, hands down, probably the best song on the album, melodic, slightly heavier, bringing the focus back to the melodic hard rock that made the band “big” back in the day… and they still seem to have a knack, for the style.
Another track that has that vintage approach and feel is “Never Say Never”, which also has hues of Def Leppard, due to the vocal layering, not that HS, never used it before… impressive little number with a great chorus.
The final track in the normal sequence of the album is “Stardust”. Longer and heavier than most of the albums on the album, it also sounds a bit bleak, during the verses, but its bridge and chorus, offers a most welcome release. Different… and deeper.
The European version has a very nice version of “Garden of Eden” in acoustic format that works out pretty well included as a bonus.
Well, I’d dare say, Harem Scarem, pick up from where they had left, give a slight nod to their early days and they also acknowledge their latter day, poppy experimentation under the “Rubber” moniker delivering a rather decent set of new tunes, that will hardly disappoint longtime fans, but is unlikely to win them any new. If you like commercial (hard/soft) rock or you’re already a fan of the band, and then by all means you can’t go wrong with “unlucky” “Thirteen”… who knows, it might actually prove lucky for Harem Scarem after all...