Hamell on Trial,
Songs for Parents Who Enjoy Drugs
(Righteous Babe, 2006)

Hamell on Trial -- essentially acoustic punk/folk-rocker Ed Hamell -- has been building quite a reputation as a hard-punching, motormouth-troubadour trading in politicised and quirky tales of modern life.

Songs for Parents Who Enjoy Drugs is the latest opus and is quite simply brilliant. Filled with the presence of his 3-year-old son Detroit, the album is an honest-to-God funny take on modern parenthood. Opener "Inquiring Minds" presents the predicament many new parents face when they realise that their kids are going to ask some tough questions when their minds form and become, well, inquiring. "Dad, did you ever do drugs? ... Dad, did you ever do it with any woman besides mom? ... Dad, did you have premarital sex? ... Dad, did you ever do anything bad?" The questions come thick and fast and Dad/Ed ponders telling the truth, but instead eventually opts for the safer option of lying.

Detroit's vocals appear on "Wheels Pt. 1" and "Wheels Pt. 2" ("The wheels on the bus go round and round..."), but it is his presence in the life of the singer-songwriter that has the biggest influence on this collection of wry observations on life. "Values" is an ingenious ditty whereby Ed and son have a fictional conversation about values. Detroit knocks him out with his amazing ability to see the world as it is, and Ed can only agree and give up on asking him to pick up his toys.

Elsewhere, "Coulter's Snatch" and "Civil Disobedience" are highly political and irreverent rants, with Hamell -- who has always wielded his acoustic guitar like a machine gun -- ripping into the political situation with articulate gusto and warped humour. Fantastic stuff!

"Father's Advice" is exactly what it says on the tin. Using the boy's grandpa and grandma as examples, he advises his young son to laugh, love and try if he wants to get through life.

Songs for Parents Who Enjoy Drugs is a classic of irreverent humour, caustic political observation and a portrait of the reality of parenthood in today's world. Ed Hamell is a modern-day amalgam of Bill Hicks and Hunter S. Thompson, a punk-folk poet with an eye for seeing things as they are and an ability to tell it like it is.

by Sean Walsh
3 June 2006

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