[Album Review] The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer- A Real Fine Mess
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by Mark Anthony Brennan

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Release Date: June 17th, 2014
Label: Tonic Records

The Harpoonist (Shawn Hall) and the Axe Murderer (Matthew Rogers) hit a career high with their latest album ‘A Real Fine Mess’, which is aptly titled given that it is one hell of a mess of styles but, boy, is it fine. The record is a wild mix of blues, funk, southern roots, honky-tonk and motown, but what makes it special is how the duo fuses these diverse styles into a unique sound that is all their own.

To be sure HAM tread through some familiar territory, albeit with a great deal of panache. Hall channels Sam Cooke on “Feel Me Now”, “In and Out of Love” has a definite “Who Do You Love?” vibe, and “Mama’s In The Backseat” is just down ‘n’ dirty southern boogie. “Tea For Two”, on the other hand, is stylistically indefinable. Yes there is funk and rock and a whole host of other influences, but the guys meld these into something fresh and modern-sounding. The same is true of the sing-along “A Real Fine Mess”, which contains the telling lyric,”I’m looking for a real fine noise/And a real fine noise is how I feel”. The album highlight is “Sweat This Pain” featuring a club-like beat (although the song is nothing of the sort) and an even quirkier than usual vocal delivery from Hall.

The relationship between Hall and Rogers is apparently not a smooth one, with the two of them differing on their visions of the band’s musical direction. Fortunately, this is a healthy creative tension that produces positive results. They treat their influences with respect, but their originality is both startling and refreshing in a musical landscape that is in desperate need of some direction. Rock ‘n’ roll is dead and hip-hop is chasing its tail. Are bands like HAM the way of the future? Maybe not, but it is nice to know that there are some fresh-sounding alternatives.