Harem Scarem - Human Nature
With every new release since 'Mood Swings' (1993), Harem Scarem fans have been hoping for 'Mood Swings 2'.

Many were understandably hooked by this seminal melodic rock album and its more AOR inclined predecessor, and became progressively alienated by the band's subsequent direction. From 'Voice Of Reason' (1995) onwards the band's musical palette seemed to contain nothing but contemporary colours and harsher tones.

Some great melodic rock music has emerged from Toronto over the years - 'Karma Cleansing' (1997) and 'Big Bang Theory' (1998) were cracking albums - but 'Mood Swings' was the benchmark the band established, one that took on a life of its own, slowly morphing into an albatross that they've had to drag around behind them ever since.

In recent years, while not totally satisfying fans' yearning for past glories, 'Weight Of The World' (2002) and 'Higher' (2003) stemmed the tide of (generally unspoken) disappointment. The good news is that 'Human Nature' continues the swing of the pendulum. This new release will completely restore fans' faith in the band and bring the lost sheep back into the fold.

'Human Nature' isn't 'Mood Swings Part 2'. It's 13 years later and you just can't go back. But it's the same approach, placed in a contemporary framework. The music is occasionally darkened by shadows - these songs are edgier, grittier, informed by life's realities, but it's just brimming over with anthemic melodic rock, powerful guitar motifs and inviting hooks.

Initially, the most striking attribute is the return of the awesome harmony chorus. As in the opening tracks 'Human Nature' and 'Next Time Around', neatly balanced by the counterweight of Lesperance's bass heavy axe work.

The confident rhythms, pop inclinations and sweetly baited hooks of 'Reality' and the Queenlike 'Give Love/Get Love' recall the band's Rubber sideshow. There's a warmth to these songs and others that's been missing for some time.

Elsewhere, 'Caught Up In Your World' maybe doesn't have the intensity and the dynamics of 'Change Comes Around', but it clearly derives from the same wellspring, with an identically charged atmosphere and sense of drama (plus a marvellous hook). It's one of many songs lighting up an album that glows with 22 carat gold.

Lyrically, 'Don't Throw It Away' and 'Tomorrow Maybe Gone' try to make sense of a universe in increasing chaos - it wouldn't be a Harem Scarem album if Hess didn't want to show us the darkness on the edge of town. In no way do these songs seem out of place, and in fact act as a stark counterpoint to the uplifting melodic rock of 'Starlight' and 'Going Under'.

The Japanese bonus track is a beautifully stripped down version of 'Higher', sketched around a dominant piano. Apparently it's a candidate for the soundtrack of imminent Kate Beckinsale movie 'Snow Angels'.

'Human Nature' won't make hardcore fans forget 'Mood Swings', but come the end of 2006, it'll be seen as one of the year's better releases.

Written by Brian
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
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Review by Brian

Released by
Marquee Avalon Japan/ Vespa Music Group North America - 2006

Human Nature
Next Time Around
Caught Up In Your World
Hanging On
Don't Throw It Away
Give Love/Get Love
Going Under
Tomorrow May Be Gone
Higher (Japanese bonus track)

Melodic rock

Related links
Visit the band page

Harem Scarem - Official Website

Other articles
Live at The Gods 2002 - (Michael)

The Early Years - (Hashman)

Higher - (Hashman)

Mood Swings - (Alanna)

Over:Load - (Alanna)

Interview with Harry Hess - (Michael)

Hope - (Alanna)

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