Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer predict the Apocalipstick

Although this album came out in 2017, it was only after their more recent live performances in the UK that this wonderfully named act came to my attention, so I make no apologies for this belated acknowledgement of this enigmatic Canadian band. Please welcome the Harpoonist and The Axe Murderer!

Since coming together in 2007, Shawn Hall (the harp player, hence Harpoonist) and Matt Rogers (the guitarist, hence Axe Murderer) already have three albums to their name. Normally appearing as a duo, for this, their fourth album, Apocalipstick the guys have recruited a full band and the sound they create is blues with hints of Stax soul, reggae rhythms and a twang of country… it all comes together in what strikes me as an honest reappraisal of early blues and adding the multi-instrumentation has just fleshed out that 30s/40s feeling they seem to imbue their writing with. Their name and the title of this album (I’m guessing that it is a countdown (the ‘tick’) to the apocalypse…although I could be wrong) shows that, while they take their music seriously, there is always room for a bit of humour.

The album kicks off with Get Ready; an echoey few seconds is interrupted by a lovely acoustic intro and then the band and the harp come in. My first thought was UB40 sing the Kinks but it soon becomes way more complex, catchy and, although the guitar and harp remain pretty much in the background, I can’t help but like it. Nancy approaches reggae at times and, with the keys warming up for a brilliant effects laden guitar piece it is another bouncy and enjoyable song. Forever Fool is a different beast as it conjures up the Stones with an underlying pop feel and then they throw in a rock style intermittently to keep the interest alive. I’m Back has a gentle guitar through pedal opening before it develops into a convoluted blues come Motown song. Pretty Please sounds like the writing session for this was in a Juke Joint…with moonshine on hand! It’s a fast harp led romp that could easily have been on the Blues Brothers soundtrack. Treat Me Kind is a short acoustic ballad of remarkable tenderness. Running, unsurprisingly, ups the pace slightly, with a sound straight out of Jamaica but maintaining that blues nous. Stax is inherent in the (keys produced?) horns. On Promises, Promises, it is the blues-rock guitar riff, which is kind of T-Rex meets the Faces, and a short but sweet organ solo that really holds this one together. The near Wurlitzer intro to Save me From Another Day soon retreats as the vocals come in. The keys and guitar give a neat background to the ‘choir’ on this one. The strangely titled Marianne (20,000 Acres of Moonlight) is a potential poppy single. Father’s Son is a clever reinterpretation of a classic blues structure and is yet another damnably catchy song. As the next track, Situate Yourself, lasts only 45 seconds all I can say is the simple piano piece could have been so much more. Final track, Fragile, may have taken its cues from a Yes album of that name as it does come across a bit proggy in its essence, whilst retaining a link to the blues in the chord structure.

I must admit, I preferred their more stripped down approach but this is an enjoyable bunch of foot tappers and has enough of the blues in the instrumentation to keep my first love content. Some of these songs are irresistible in a way that defies the written word and I keep saying to myself that I shouldn’t like this album…and yet I do. So, although there is nothing groundbreaking, there is a lot of different nuances fitted into the 13 tracks (well, twelve and a bit). Give it a listen and judge for yourself…they deserve a chance to keep growing.

EIGHTpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Tracklisting

    1. Get Ready
    2. Nancy
    3. I’m Back
    4. Pretty Please
    5. Treat Me Kind
    6. Running
    7. Promises, Promises
    8. Save Me From Another Day
    9. Marianne (20,000 Acres of Moonlight)
    10. Father’s Son
    11. Situate Yourself
    12. Fragile

Musicians:
Shawn Hall: harmonica, vocals
Matt Rogers: guitar
John Raham: drums
Geoff Hilhorst: keyboards
Dawn Pemberton, Andrina Turenne, Alexa Dirks, Ben Rogers, Khari Wendell McClelland, Erik Nielsen and Ricardo Khayatte: backing vocals

 

Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer predict the Apocalipstick