The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer: A Real Fine Mess Review

Vancouver-based duo The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer have made considerable waves in Western Canada’s rock scene, sharing stages with the likes of Mother Mother and The Sheepdogs and garnering a Sirius XM Indies award in the “Blues Act of the Year” category in 2013. Now, on their third LP (titled A Real Fine Mess), The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer find themselves upping their game to meet steeper competition in the blues circuits. Taking hints from Jack White and Cold War Kids and heavily informed by the seventies’ electric piano obsession, A Real Fine Mess delivers an astounding fourteen tracks of hot, sweaty, blues.

The album’s basic construction centers around Shawn Hall’s harmonica (harp) and Mathew Rogers’ guitar (axe). Hall does double-duty as lead vocalist and Rogers keeps time with a couple foot-pedal floor drums. This means that A Real Fine Mess has a sparse sound – no heavy guitar trying desperately to fill up empty space. The tracks on A Real Fine Mess are melody/harmony and riff oriented instead, showing Hall and Rogers’ knack for fine-tuning the presentation of their impossibly catchy tunes. The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer have an uncanny ability to cross upbeat hooks with emotive, soulful elements – Hall’s mournful harmonica definitely helps to accomplish this, as can be heard on the album’s opener, “Black and Blue.” Hall and Rogers don’t shy away from a little sonic experimentation from time to time, either – the sideways twelve-bar “Don’t Make ‘em Like They Used To” features a surrealistic guitar bit that will dance across your stereo’s speakers, and the brilliant “A Real Fine Noise” manages to combine a synthesizer, an effected guitar track, and a pushed rhythm and still remain an uncompromised blues song.

If The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer haven’t been on your radar since 2011’s Checkered Past, now would be a good time to start paying attention to these two musicians. A Real Fine Mess accomplishes everything a good blues record ought to – it’s assertive, organic, and infectious, and continually looks forward while paying homage to the past.

The Review: 9/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Black and Blue
– Closer to Death
– Don’t Make ’em Like They Used To
– My Paradise
– A Real Fine Noise

The Big Hit

– Closer to Death

Review by Richard MacDougall

Buy the album: iTunes

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