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Hamell on Trial - The Terrorism Of Everyday Life: Live From Edinburgh

  by Chris O'Toole

published: 19 / 4 / 2008

Hamell on Trial - The Terrorism Of Everyday Life: Live From Edinburgh
Label: Righteous Babe
Format: CD


Lo-fi, but abrasive live album recorded at last year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival from New York-based singer-songwriter and social satirist, Hamell on Trial, which twisting common interpretations of reality into new and exciting shapes reveals to its listener the modern world in a new light

Taking a look at modern America through a unique and cracked perspective, this ‘Bootleg’ Hamell on Trial album is an unearthed gem. Documented at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the recording essentially pays homage to the effusive power of rock ‘n’ roll. Part stand up comedy performance and part acoustic anti-folk show, the disc encompasses 20 tracks of lyrical and informed observations – taking in everybody from Charles Bukowski to the Beatles. All played on one 1937 Gibson guitar, the delivery takes a little from Bill Hicks and the words something from the gonzo nature of Hunter S. Thompson, but Ed Hamell’s one man show never feels contrived and owes not a single debt. The opening gambit, 'So Messed Up', discusses the difference between the lives of a bullied school boy in small time-America and of superstar John Lennon – comparing dreams filled with luminous celebrities, including Alan Ginsberg, to the mundane nature of everyday life until the two come crashing together. It all ends in tears, but the punch line is worth the wait. And to give a sense of where his inspiration lays, Hamell details his childhood experiences with mescaline on the next number. The album is released on feminist icon Ani Difranco’s Righteous Babe label, and is a collection is loose, finger-picked numbers – it is also lo-fi in the extreme. Production values extend to a single microphone and the street-wise rage and razor-sharp wit of Hamell is focused into this single point. The next number, 'When You’re Young', takes the form of a Latino manifesto for youth - essentially encouraging the misuse of chemicals and lovers to the point of blindness – and advises smoking kitty litter after a five day crack binge. It’s hard to imagine what a well heeled Edinburgh audience would have made of this, but they chuckle along politely. The track is one of the highlights of an organic performance, filled with rye observations. Later on Hamell discusses the virtues of smoking the ashes of dead friends ('Ashes/Pete'), the perils of eating American fast food ('The Trough'), and the benefits of taking in shows by Jimi Hendrix, the Who and the Lovin’ Spoonful ('Bands 'n' Guitars'). The tracks are largely formed of Hamell taking the audience through his own personal bag of memoirs, setting a hundred scenes with minute details of his life. Stories and characters unfold and are gone just as quick. At times Hamell sounds Frank Black of the Pixies, during the quiet parts and never going for the loud, and this adds to the confrontational style. It’s a strange journey and one unique to Hamell. Part autobiography, but attack, the show twists common interpretations of reality into new and exciting shapes, allowing the listener to see the modern world in a new light. While some of the idea presented may not be as shocking and original as the style, there is still plenty of food for thought on the table during this rabble rousing performance.

Track Listing:-
1 An Attitude
2 John Lennon
3 Folk Mass
4 When You're Young
5 Ashes/ Pete
6 The Trough
7 Bands N Guitars
8 7 Seas
9 Crack Bar
10 Chris And The Angels
11 Fathers Kitchen/ Racine/ Ellicottville
12 Halfway
13 Terrors
14 Pussy
15 Parents
16 Fathers Advice
17 Vision/ Full Circle
18 Inquiring Minds
19 Pledge
20 The Meeting

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