Hamell on Trial – Songs For Parents Who Enjoy Drugs (2006)
If there’s anything to say about Ed Hamell (aka Hamell on Trial), it’s that he’s certainly not shy about voicing his opinion. On his fifth solo record, Songs for Parents Who Enjoy Drugs, the anti-folk acoustic punk singer presents his most politically charged album to date. Inspired by the birth of his son, Detroit, Hamell searches to answer some of the questions that plague all parents in the 21st century (what to do when he asks if you’ve ever done “anything bad” — the response: “lie” — in “Inquiring Minds” or how to justify picking up toys when “We’re over in Iraq/And there’s no sign of turning back” in “Values”) while keeping everything very tongue-in-cheek. Hamell’s not concerned about dispelling stereotypes or about showing “compassion” (“That would take a bigger person than me,” he admits in “Coulter’s Snatch,” which is everything you’d think it would be, only probably more graphic); in fact, he doesn’t even seem to mind perpetuating them (the Southern-accented voice in “Maddy’s Pt. 1” and “Pt. 2”). He’s just angry and wants to say what he feels, and doesn’t care who he offends in the meantime. While Hamell’s nasally, sneering voice can be more than a little grating — not to mention the fact that his delivery as a “rapper” is pretty bad — his intentions are, in an odd way, very sincere. Maybe this can be seen in his less political songs, like in “Jerkin’,” an atypical ode to monogamy, or the early-U2-esque “Father’s Advice” (“You’d better love/’Til you die”), everything played over fuzzed-out acoustic and electric guitars and random synths. It’s lo-fi music that sounds like it’s played on broken strings and blown-out amps, and while perhaps Johnny Rotten would never be caught singing “The Wheels on the Bus” (albeit a more modern, and disturbing, version of it that features Detroit on background vocals), he might appreciate the D.I.Y. ethic that Hamell pursues. As an album, Songs for Parents Who Enjoy Drugs is kind of hit-or-miss, but as a statement, he’s spot-on.